15 May 2012

Step 4: Part I

I have a feeling this is going to be one of multiple posts about Step 4, considering I haven't completed it yet and I already have things to say.  But I wanted to get these thoughts out to make room for new ones.  (Mostly kidding, but doesn't it seem that way at times? As if our brains have finite space?)

If you aren't familiar with the 12-Step program Step 4 involves taking a personal inventory.  I recommend this for EVERYONE.  It is where we make a "searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."  It is the most profound journey of self-discovery I've ever experienced.  You'll notice the word "fearless" because it can be scary to review your past and acknowledge your faults.  But I think that Step 4 is just a practical approach to the scripture in Ether 12:27 where God invites us to come unto him and he will show us our weakness.

If we invite our Father in Heaven and our Savior along for this journey of self-discovery, our own mortal minds can grow and expand through their loving guidance. 

Anyway, here are my thoughts on Step 4: (Tonight anyway.)

1.  Step 4 has totally made me rethink my parenting.  Part of Step 4 is trying to understand the way your past has influenced you.  For me this has included the way my parents taught me, the way I felt about them and my siblings, the way those feelings motivated behaviors.  (Sounds complicated huh?)  Now I catch myself as I discipline my son or ignore my little girls' pleas for my attention, I wonder, "What lasting influence is this having?"  I know it sounds a little paranoid, but I truly feel like it is a blessing to help me keep perspective.  I think twice about the purposes of punishments, are they meant to shame and, well, PUNISH? Motivated by frustration and anger?  Or am I trying in ALL things I do to help my child feel his worth and know of my love, while still allowing him to experience consequences?  This is turning into a post about parenting so I'll move on to #2.

2.  One of my all-time favorite quotes is this one by C.S. Lewis.  I first heard it before my most difficult days, but recently it resurfaced and I thought it was especially meaningful in the light of personal discovery with the assistance of God.

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

At times both Pete and I have felt true anguish and pain regarding our character flaws.  It can be so difficult to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings.  I've felt moments where I am not surprised with my discoveries

"Yes, I knew I needed to improve in that area." And then there are moments where I want to cry out
"Okay! Enough!" 

But isn't what Lewis says the truth? We all desire to have the Savior dwell within us?

3.  For both Pete and I, Step 4 has opened the door for total vulnerability.  We have admitted things to each other that we were too ashamed to admit before.  It has given us a chance to share deep fears and inadequacies that we carefully protected up to this point.  My love for him has increased 10-fold as I have watched him be "knocked about" through his self-discovery. And I feel honored to learn about him as if I were looking through a prism, and light was shining in many different colorful directions. 

I encourage anyone to begin their own journey of self-discovery, through whichever medium you feel best suits you.  Whether or not addiction is a direct part of your life.


  1. My husband and I are close to starting Step 4 -- we are both excited and terrified . . .

  2. My husband and I are also starting our step 4s. We have already had a few discussions in which we were able to open up to each other and be more vulnerable than we had been, and they were some good conversations! I also recommend step 4 to everybody.

  3. Step 4 is a door opener. It changed my whole recovery.