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  • Writer's pictureAnonymous

"Step Four - Resentments"

Updated: Mar 2

The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous reads "Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves" and begins this endeavor with a square look at resentments.

Outside of the brilliance in the process that judiciously breaks us down there are times within the Big Book when difficulty arises in understanding the directions. Perhaps this is somewhat natural with the style of writing. The narrative moves from point A, the view as we are taking the step, to point B, the place we land after we have taken the step. It's the before and after, the bouncing back and forth, that might confuse some. I'll admit that when my sponsor took me through we didn't read the step out of the book - he gave me the directions.

It was after I had taken the step that all of the writing made total sense to me. It made sense because I now had two experiences. The before. The After. I could reconcile each with the narrative after awakening spiritually.

There are those who feel the Big Book should be rewritten.


Blasphemous? Not so much if you look at why there are some who want it rewritten, made clearer.

Many, many of those who have spiritually awakened wouldn't rewrite the book nor would want it to be. But what if the writing on resentments was arranged, rearranged, in a way that might make better sense? Shall we try it?


Grab that Big Book - Follow Along

Intro. page 63, paragraph 4

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

1. page 64, paragraph 1

Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.

2. page 64, paragraph 2

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.

3. page 65, paragraph 3

We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived.

4. page 66, paragraph 4

This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."

5. page 67, paragraph 1

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn't treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.

6. page 66, paragraph 1

It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worthwhile. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.

7. page 66, paragraph 2

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.

8. page 64, paragraph 3

Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were "burned up."

9. page 65, paragraph 1

On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?

10. page 65 , paragraph 2

We were usually as definite as this example:

I'm resentful at: The Cause Affects my:

Mr. Brown: His attention to my Sex relations.

wife. Self-esteem (fear)

Told my wife of my Sex relations.

mistress. Self-esteem (fear)

Brown may get my Security.

job at the office. Self-esteem (fear)

Mrs. Jones: She's a nut - she Personal relationship.

snubbed me. She Self-esteem (fear)

committed her husband

for drinking.

He's my friend.

She's a gossip.

My employer: Unreasonable - Unjust Self-esteem (fear)

- Overbearing - Security.

Threatens to fire

me for drinking

and padding my

expense account.

My wife Misunderstands and Pride - Personal

nags. Likes Brown. Sex relations -

wants house put in Security (fear)

her name.

11. page 66, paragraph 3

We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.

12. page 67, paragraph 2

Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man's. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.

Were you able to suspend your contempt prior to investigation for that one?

It is still not written in a straight line yet the elements of the writing process are clear. The before is clear. The after is clear. The "why the hell do I have to write an inventory?" is a bit more clear.

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