The A.A. Big Book, Twelve Steps, and Step Four
You often hear newcomer AAs – and sometimes old timers – say they are hung up on the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous. A phrase “at some of these we balked” and, while referring to all 12 Steps in the Big Book, it rings true for many AAs and their sponsors.
How do you “take” the Fourth of the Twelve Steps of A.A.?
I believe the instructions are in the Big Book, but often people know so little about the roots of the Steps and the roots of Step Four that they don’t seem to have a clear guide to move them along. My own sponsor and his sponsor certainly got it wrong, and they declined to go to the Joe and Charlie Big Book Seminars that could have helped them and certainly did help me and the men I sponsored.
Part One – The Big Book and The Bible
Let’s look at the “taking” and the roots of Step Four:
The Big Book instructions in brief: Step Four actually begins with the Oxford Group definition of sin as anything that blocks us from God and others. It calls for a written moral inventory that identifies and requires the listing of four principal “sins” or “blocks” to God. These are resentment, fear, self-seeking and/or selfish sex, and harms to others. It also sets the stage for the Eighth Step list of harms. Its list of “blocks” is inconsistent with the list the Big Book sets forth in Step Ten. Step Ten calls for “continued” inventory of resentment, self-seeking, dishonesty and fear. There is no requirement for a “dishonesty” list in Step Four though the Big Book calls for rigorous honesty. As to Step Four, what do you write? Just honestly write down your resentments, fears, selfish acts, and harms to others. And, just as the Oxford Group source did, you write down “your part”—not the other fellow’s.
The Steps can be simplified if and when one knows where they came from. Step 4 is no exception.
Let’s look at the roots.
First, the Bible. Dr. Bob said the basic ideas for the Steps came from the Bible. And here are the relevant verses: (1) “No man can serve two masters. . . ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat 6:34. (2) “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam [log] out of thine own eye and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote [speck] out of thy brother’s eye” (Mat 7:1-5). (3) “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:11-12). The early yardsticks (as Dr Bob called them) for self-examination came from Dr. Robert E. Speer’s Principles of Jesus. These principles were founded on the essentials for obedience to God’s will, and were taught by Jesus: Honesty (John 8:44), Purity (Mat 5:-29-30), Unselfishness (Luke 14:33), Love (John 13:34).
Some thought and wrote (including Sam Shoemaker) that the four yardsticks (or standards or absolutes) came from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. And, as you can see, most of the verses cited above did in fact come from the Sermon (Mat 5, 6, and 7). But there were other verses cited as well by Robert E. Speer to make his points more clear.
Part Two – To Be Covered in the Next Article
This part will cover the Fourth Step roots from Anne Smith’s Journal, from the Oxford Group, and from Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s writings and teachings.
The Major Source for the Two Articles
Dick B., Twelve Steps for You: Take the Twelve Steps with the Big Book, A.A. History, and the Good Book at Your Side, 4th ed. (
: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2005) Kihei, HI