Having taken the third step, at the first opportunity our sponsor will explain to us how to do step four. Step four is concerned with three main areas of our lives our resentments, fear and sexual conduct. As with all the Steps this is not an exact science variations on the defects of character or amount of columns used is not important. The crucial thing is that we get the principles of the program into our lives.
Resentment: We put the name of the person, it might be ourselves, a principle, a place or an institution in the first column. In the second column we put precisely what has annoyed us “fancied or real” and in the third column we write down the instincts which have been interfered with: “Was it our self esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?" In the fourth column we write down our faults (defects). At the Road to Recovery group we use a list of fourteen defects. It tells us on page 62 of the Big Book that there are literally "a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self seeking, and self pity." Some People use seven defects and some use twenty seven. Bill clears this up in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 50: "To avoid falling into confusion over the names these defects should be called", Bill describes the Seven Deadly Sins as a "universally recognised list". Dr. Bob is quoted in the Big Book story He Sold Himself Short as using different defects again. The names of these defects are irrelevant, it is the principle of accepting responsibility for them that is important.
Fear: There are two different types of fear: phobic and self-centred. We put down the name of the phobic fear in the left hand column, asking ourselves – in the second column – why we have the fear or what's the worst thing that could happen. Usually but not always, it will lead to the fear of death. Phobic fears will not have resentment in connection with them, so the third and fourth column can be left empty. Self-Centred fears are a result of threatened instincts so our defects of character will step in to justify them. We simply describe or name the fear in the first column, exactly what the fear is in the second column, followed by the instincts interfered with in column three and defects in column four.
Sexual Conduct: We survey all our sexual conduct. The name of the person goes into the first column. In the second column we describe in what ways we were selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate; and how and in what way did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? As with resentments, the description in the second column must be specific, including were necessary events fancied as well as real. In column three we ask ourselves which of our instincts where threatened or exceeded their proper function, and in column four we list our defects. We are reminded on pages 72 and 73 of the Big Book "that many newcomers try to hang onto the worst items in stock, keeping to themselves certain facts about their lives, hoping to avoid this humbling experience, Invariably, these people get drunk."
Once we have honestly taken inventory of our sexual conduct we can see what “we should of done instead “ and with God's help begin to form an ideal for our future sex life. Bill is suggesting that we will need God’s help in living up to our ideal. The word ideal means “the highest conceivable” or "existing in idea”. Whatever our ideal turns out to be, growing towards it means change! Does my ideal need living up to?
An important thing to remember with step four is to not make a mountain out of a mole hill. The sooner we start doing it the better. Some people find it good to do a couple of hours an evening and have weekends off. We try to remember what memories are painful, what memories have left us feeling guilty or dirty. We should be as specific and as nasty as we really feel when writing down the description in the second column. We should look at in what ways we feel inadequate as a person and what things we always worry about.
It is good to keep very close to our sponsors during step four and not be afraid to ask questions. Perhaps let your sponsor see the inventory once a week just to check that you are doing it and doing it correctly. One of the things which we have found that helps when sat alone with our fourth step, is the Serenity Prayer. In times when we just don't know how to write it down, just quietly recite the Serenity Prayer and then write it down as it is.