Powerless Over Alcohol & Life: Steps 4 and 5
Step 4: Made a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Me-The Life that had been Lived Through Me and My Part in It.
The Alcoholics Anonymous 4th Step reads "made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." By the time I reached this step, I was really panicked! If this new life was to work, I had to confess my sins, but much worse, Scripture taught that I had to confront myself and my view of myself.
I had to admit, repent of and confess my sins. Although my sin is unbelief (John 6:29) and therefore somehow the actual doing of my sins was "sin that dwelleth in me", i.e.: sin in my members (Rom 7:17, 20, 7:23), I still had to own or acknowledge my responsibility in that process.
The Holy Spirit was making my insides so sore from His pressure to confess my sins and to look at me that as a way out to obtain relief, I began the first small steps of the first searching, honest inventory I had ever been willing to start.
I could have listed my numerous sins quite easily. I knew a lot about the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20) in me and while I did not even want to admit to those sins, I soon realized that the Holy Spirit was probing much deeper and was requiring me to discard excuses and justifications. David’s cry, "search me" was not yet my conscious plea, although it would become that later when I finally admitted that my problem was me!
The First Requirement: Honesty
The moral inventory was to be both searching and fearless at the same time. If the inventory was to be a searching one, then I had to move "stuff’ around and get to the "stuff’ on the back shelf. The requirement of fearlessness and this new thoroughness was to push me to an honesty I had never faced before. Thus I now know that although I have not actually physically murdered anyone, I have truly "wished" murder and that I have murdered with gossip, slander, lies and self righteous posturing, all without excuse or justification.
I had routinely and comfortably lied about my life and almost everything about myself. Lies that I knew hurt and lies that "hurt no one but myself" (but actually slaughtered others) I admitted were initially excuses and then justifications for doing what I wanted to do. The lies were blatant misrepresentations and part of a deliberate scheme to delude myself and others. I had convinced myself and others that I was okay and that others were not okay. This ‘searching and fearless moral inventory’ left no room for this pattern of sin-The Life Christ lives through me, as me, left no need for this pattern of sin.
I knew the more obvious sin areas in my life and could catalogue them so long as I did not have to be completely honest (fearless) and searching. If, however, I was not to excuse myself any longer but for once take total responsibility and let the chips fall where they may, I had to dredge up the details of how my harmful, sin choices had been lived out. I had to cough up (search out) as many details as I could in order to really confess and repent. I felt petrified, full of dread and an almost totally debilitating fear. Since I didn’t want to do this inventory, I blocked out my feeling and became numb (by the way, I now realize that many people live numb all the time, as I did so many years ago). I was told though that if I was to "be restored" I had to do this inventory right.
A "Fearless" Moral Inventory
I need to say a little bit more here on this fear business. First of all, feeling fear is no excuse to delay, avoid or minimize living right. Fear in this situation did not justify delaying the taking of an honest, searching, fearless moral inventory.
The 4th Step says to take "a searching and fearless moral inventory…" Note that the inventory is to be fearless, not fearful. Although I did not realize it then, I understand now that feeling fearful was part of the process that God had designed as the road to recovery, because learning to act in spite of how I felt was a choice pattern God was preparing for me. I had to choose to be honest and therefore "own" my sin-my unbelief-although scared to death to do so. There was, after all, this Holy Spirit pressure to once and for all come clean with and about myself.
I have greatly profited from confronting the 4th Step requirement of fearlessness. The fear of the consequences of not responding to the Holy Spirit pressure spurred me to a degree of honesty previously inexperienced. Also, the Holy Spirit pressure seemed to be saying that I really could escape the pain of keeping secrets if I came clean.
AA taught me, and I learned, that I fear I will not get what I want and that you will not like me if you really get to know me. Both of these ‘fears’ spring from a total lack of faith and are obvious examples of a belief that I am a self-generating, self-operating self. These fears have been Satan’s tools with me an "independent self’.
As I prepared to begin work in this 4th Step, I remembered that years ago I had promised myself that I would not back away from my faith statement that I was "joined to the Lord", one Spirit (I Cor 6:17), and that the real life being lived through me was Christ as me (Galatians 2:20). Although I felt petrified, I said again that Christ as me could honestly and thoroughly search out the sins in which my unbelief choices had resulted and that He as me could take an honest view of myself.
The Part Shame Plays
As I worked on this inventory, I became very much aware, in a way I had not experienced before, that I felt full of shame and wanted to blame everyone else but me, including God, for my life. Shame and blame had eaten my lunch. I wanted to go into complete isolation. I wanted to run-I wanted to pick up my addictions and escape the abject fear that seemed to compass me about.
Shame, Blame and Isolation. These first recorded consequences of Adam’s deliberate choice to eat the apple, were my experiences, too! (Genesis 3:8-13). Just like Adam, the acute sense of shame resulting from my sin produced an enormous inner fear that I was not "alright".
Of all things (and this seemed to contradict the shame I felt) I also saw that I really thought that I was superior to other people and that if I got this sin stuff cleaned up, there were reasons why a nice guy like me had acted with such willful disregard for the wellbeing of others and myself. I think now that this nonsense stemmed from my fear that if you really knew me you wouldn’t like me, but when I first gazed on this, I was really ashamed.
I have admitted a lot since those first days about the direct and indirect consequences of "sin in my members" and having once been "by nature a child of wrath" (Eph. 2:3), but then all I had was the Holy Spirit pressure to do whatever it took to get well (in AA language, "go to any length").
I praise God that we can rely on Him to create the will and the way when hard inner things need doing. I then decided that I would tell someone I could trust who would not make me undergo more pain by "ratting on me." I really didn’t want a whitewash or sappy sentimentality-I wanted to get clean.
I have done other 4th Step work since this first time and have concentrated on the enormous spiritual, moral, ethical, physical damage that the unbelief in my life has wreaked on me and others. Enormous! Each time that the dust in the corners of my life has required me to sneeze up the truth about additional areas of my life-each time, painful as it is, I have profited! I have been as honest and thorough as I can about my part in situations where anger has bred resentment, and resentment revenge-where self pity has led to emotional thumb sucking with the concomitant infantile whining, grasping and demanding more and more! Just recently I was humiliated to see so clearly that my groaning and moaning was pitiful-I was a wimp-I had absolutely no right to complain about anything!
I was told early on that the "shame is in the details" and that "we are only as sick as our secrets," and by personal experience I now know that these axioms are true!
Rebellion Against God
I could never hide from God for He "hast searched me, and known me" (Psalms 139:1), but I have now admitted what I had really refused to admit before, that I had sinned with a total reliance on God’s grace-expecting Grace-doing what I wanted to do because God would forgive me! I still shudder regularly to think about that part of my life. I had chosen to live with a lie about the consequences of sin and instead simply said that somehow "things" would be alright! Thus, I had repeatedly taken God’s grace for granted-"forgiveness" from God, my wife and family, my friends and the world in general I took for granted! My life mocked God-it was now time to reap what I had sown. Although told not to tempt God, I had repeatedly done so (Matthew 4:7). I now had to confess to God and to someone else that I had been totally self-centered, abusive and did not deserve forgiveness or restoration and that in fact, I was not some nice guy who had an excuse for why I did what I did. I had thought myself "something" when really
I was nothing and had deceived myself (Galatians 6:3). My decision about myself was that the Bible was wrong. The consequences of my sin and alternatives to sinning were not actually what the Bible said they were. This delusion resulted from a conscious choice to disobey God. I have seen since that for much of my life I was in direct, active rebellion against God.
Relief-The Lie Exposed
Although I do not remember spending any time pursuing this revelation then, I know that I had kept this false view about myself. In the additional 4th steps I have taken, I have discovered that deep, deep inside me I had held to the Satan lie that there was an "independent I" who by myself was an "ok" guy (shamed and bad, but somehow okay and thereby justified). I thought I knew better than to believe in an "independent self" only to discover that I had in fact swallowed that Satan lie. I was not even aware that I believed anymore in an "independent, self-operating and therefore self-crediting or self-blaming I."
The initial portion of the personal inventory work was of immediate and terrific benefit! Imagine living a life where shame and blame are gone if only for a while-where false credit taking is non-existent, where the need for false humility or pride is gone!
I found out more about the power of the Scriptural promises when I took my 5th step, that is when I admitted to God and to another person what I was now admitting to myself. My sin-filled life-my imperfect life-had left me severely wounded, and I needed healing, and for the first time in my life I honestly admitted that I needed healing. To experience the healing and to escape the internal pressure to come clean, I had to start my first 5th Step, which like the others was an ego shattering-real humility producing decision. But I decided to move and thus, I moved into the 5th Step.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to Ourselves, and to Another Human Being the Exact Nature of Our Wrongs.
For me, the last portion of AA’s 5th Step which is reproduced above, is translated to mean: "the exact nature of the way Satan had misused me and my part in the misuse". My wife heard my first 5th Step. In as much detail as I could muster, I told her the "exact nature" of my wrongs. I immediately experienced release from the shame that had previously engulfed me. Although previously I had confessed some of my sins, I had never previously confessed totally, as honestly as I could, the details of my hidden, sin-filled life and those sins that had previously been disclosed. This first run through did not get very deep into many of my inner fears, ideas, etc. but the details of the sin-filled life that had been lived were disclosed.
Healing Follows Confession
The promise of healing that is found in James 5 was mine by experience. Because of its importance and promise, I quote that Scripture here:
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye
may be healed …" (James 5:16a).
If I was to be "healed" (and did I need healing) I had to "confess"-confession in practical terms for me meant to agree that I, and no one else, had been the culprit and because I was the culprit I could blame no one else.
"Confess" also meant that I was agreeing that the law was right and good and should not have been broken! I was committing myself to not doing that stuff again! I made the decision to choose God’s way.
I also had to own the fault and the sins. They were mine spiritually, morally, ethically, and mine legally and physically. I could not hide behind my container status- I admitted my sins! It made no difference that the one actually doing the sins was Satan; what was important was that I had chosen to let Satan have his way with me and therefore I was responsible.
I have since worked other 5th Steps getting deeper and deeper into Satan’s lies about me and in each instance, I have experienced the promised "healing".
Admitting or confessing to God, without blaming Him for not keeping me, or giving me such a hard circumstance or not understanding or whatever else, made me conscious that, contrary to how I had previously lived with the idea that "somehow things would work out", that God was indeed interested in my every idea, desire, and choice. I learned by experience that "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).
I began to live from the conscious reality that God really did care about the nooks and crannies of my life, since after all it was Christ’s life being lived through me (Galatians 2:20) and my unbelief carried that Life into the muck and mire of unbelief’s consequences. (I Cor. 6:16). And wonder of wonders, I began to realize that I really did care about being a right person.
I Must Tell Another Person
Admitting all of this to another human being was critical since that single act required an act of humility, honesty and commitment I had never, ever required of myself or found available. I had sinned against God in numerous people in whom He lived and part of the restorative process required my public acknowledgement, humbly and honestly, of this fact.
Proverbs 28:13 has always been true, but I did not know its power until I completed that 5th Step:
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Proverbs 28:13.
Public confession to another human being was required. Sometimes I still fall for the lie that I am an "independent self" and by so doing enter into sin. Public confession to another provides the opportunity to have another point out my independent believing. Note that I said "independent self" and by that I mean a self-operating self. The lie is not that I am a self-surely I am-the scripture loudly proclaims that I am created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26) and that I am an integrated soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). The lie is that like Satan said, "I shall be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:14), as though he could!
So, Satan’s lie that he could be independent of God and therefore be equal with God is the same lie I fall for when I believe that I am a self operated self.
My public confession to another of the way I seemed, felt, thought, behaved, acted, was for me the completion of the 5th Step. I was ready then to move to the 6th Step.
Steps 6 and 7 will be forthcoming.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 9 No 1
- The Missing Truth
- From Faith to Substance (Thought, Word, Deed)
- What to do when your life resembles Alphabet Soup! One Woman’s Answer
- What Makes God A Person?
- Fall Conference in England
- THE MAILBOX A Mask Ripped Off
- Daring To Believe
- Learning Acceptance
- Offering Support
- The Deep Things of God
- Encouragement From Afar
- Powerless Over Alcohol & Life: Steps 4 and 5
- Update From Boone
- From Bondage to Freedom: A Journey Into the Light
- Moments with Meryl
- Editor’s Note