Justice and Mercy and the 5th Step

First off, I need to say, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”


I did “part” of my 5th Step yesterday with my sponsor AF.  I have been putting off finishing the 4th for so long that she finally said, “Let’s just meet and do what you’ve done so far?”  So, that’s what we did. And it was good.

rembrant_prodigueAF is like that “perfect sponsor.”  She has maybe five or six sponsees and tailors her sponsorship of each according to their own needs and personalities.  For me, that means she pretty much leaves me alone, ha ha.  Not really true.  We communicate via email every single day. She sends out a “daily inspiration” each morning, as well as a separate email with her gratitude list of five things she’s grateful for today. She cc’s all her sponsees and we each “reply all” back with our own gratitude list of five things.

And I text her a lot.

But she doesn’t make me “call” her all the time.  That’s just not me.  One of her other sponsees calls her twice a day but refuses to participate in the emails.  So we’re each just different animals.

And yesterday, she just listened, as I read her my list of “resentments” and “why.”  (those of you in 12 Step programs understand what I’m talking about here.) And then she helped me see my part in things and pointed out some of my apparent assets and liabilities, since this is a moral inventory.

When I worked at $3 Cafe (a popular chicken wing establishment in Atlanta which boasted over 125 different types of beer, foreign and domestic) to put myself through college and pay for my long-distance phone calls to a stupid boyfriend, I remember my sister (the Manager) would take an inventory of all the beer each week.

The big trucks would arrive and deliver boxes of beer; and she would spend hours counting the beers and taking inventory of what she had enough of, what she needed to order more of and what was just right. Then she’d place the order with the beer companies for more of what was dificient.

Wouldn’t it be great if a “moral” inventory (the 4th Step) was that simple?  We make a list of things we have enough of (honesty, generosity, loyalty, discipline), a list of things we have too much of (dependency, laziness, self-pity, grandiosity), and then a list of things we’re deficient in (obedience, holiness, commitment, self-care)— and then we place an order of God for more of what we lack. Then we’re done!

We get the order via UPS or Fedex the next day from our “Higher Power” and we’re all set until we do another inventory of it all over again next week.

I titled this post “justice and mercy” because I meant to talk about justice and mercy, but I got off track.  My point is that during my time with AF yesterday doing part of my 5th Step of part of my 4th Step, I discussed with her how I do well with justice as long as it’s tempered with a lot of mercy.

There have been people in my life that I’ve received justice from…yeah, I deserved it.  But the people that didn’t temper their justice with mercy are no longer in my life–I don’t cultivate relationships with people that only deal in justice.  I don’t experience love that way.

And when I love others, I am pretty low on the justice thing and really high on the mercy. When I love others, I love with 100% mercy first.  Justice second.  How does God love us? How does God love you?  How does God love me?

How’s that for a hump day all over the place post?  Have a great day y’all!  Moving to the beach is getting closer…  about 90% chance.  Going back this weekend for another interview (not the editor job, though–a different one).

Step 4, Part I of Part I (Resentments)

The Conscience

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?