The Conscience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 4th Step inventory is not an exercise in beating myself up. I need to be scrupulously honest, but I need to be fair to myself, too. I have strengths–not just defects—and although I’m not inventorying (i know that’s not a word but just go with it) them in this Step, it is important people like me (prone to depression) remember the good parts of myself as I look at my defects.

As a Catholic, this 4th Step inventory is just like doing a very thorough “examination of conscience.”  The key words here are “very thorough.”  I’d never done so thorough an examination of conscience as when I did my first and only 4th Step back in 2007.

I think the Catholic version of the typical Examination of Conscience is actually meant to be more like the 10th Step—it’s meant to be an ongoing way of life, examining our conscience every evening and then once a month talking about the most common sins (“defects” in AA lingo = “sins” in Catholic lingo) with a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  AA would call my most common sins my “patterns.”

Here is a one page pdf  Examination of Conscience from Catholic Youth Ministry that can help Catholics prepare for Confession.

Here is another great guideline for an Examination of Conscience, and another, and another here.

The 12 Steps version is the 4th Step:

Made a searching and fearless moral  inventory of ourselves.

My sponsor (whom I’ll call “AF”) is a former teacher.  She takes me step by step through each step, which is perfect for me.

AF gave me worksheets and assignments to take me through this Step.  There are four parts to Step Four: Resentments, Fears, Sex, Whom I Hurt.  I’ll start first with Resentments.  And this part on Resentments has four parts. I wish the Catholic Examination of Conscience was explained this thoroughly—there should be a book Examination of Conscience for Dummies.

The first things AF said to do (Part I) for the Resentments portion of Step Four was:

  1. Read Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 63-71
  2. Complete each Part thoroughly before going on to the next Part.

PART 1 – WHO am I angry with?

Make a LIST. List all people, institutions or principles you are angry with. Leave no one out. Go all the way back to childhood, if necessary. List whomever you hold resentments against.

Done!  Check! Voila!  Yay! I have officially begun!  Are you wondering how many people, institutions or principles are on my list?