1938 Original Manuscript for 1939 1st Edition BigBook Searchable 1976 3rd Edition BigBook On-Line
The Prescription
Click The Images To Go To Page Indicated In The Flag

On Steps 4, 5, 6 and 7

From a 45 year old article on Going Through the Steps is a listing of 20 character defects we should ask ourselves about as we take our inventory.

In Step 4 as we take a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, we must find out what we've got, what we need to get rid of, and what we need to acquire. The "fearless" is not about how we feel, but about what we write, thoroughly, rigorously honest. There are 20 character defects to ask about -- the individual wrongs we have done are not necessary to go over, just the defects that caused them. The inventory is of our defects, not our incidents.

Going over the listing, we ask ourself have we honestly admitted our defects to ourself as we write out on paper how they have manifested in our lives and created the unmanageability we have known.

Here are the defects:

  1. Resentment, Anger

  2. Fear, Cowardice

  3. Self pity

  4. Self justification

  5. Self importance, Egotism

  6. Self condemnation, Guilt

  7. Lying, Evasiveness, Dishonesty

  8. Impatience

  9. Hate

  10. False pride, Phoniness, Denial

  11. Jealousy

  12. Envy

  13. Laziness

  14. Procrastination

  15. Insincerity

  16. Negative Thinking

  17. Immoral thinking

  18. Perfectionism, Intolerance

  19. Criticizing, Loose Talk, Gossip

  20. Greed

Having admitted these defects to ourselves, having thoroughly inventoried them and written out how they have manifested and controlled our actions and reactions in life, we have completed Step 4.

Are we now willing to share them with another and with God? We must ask ourself if we are willing to go to any length to get rid of these same defects that caused our life to be unmanageable. Do we want to get rid of them, even those that were "fun"? Perhaps you will have some hesitancy sharing all this with another. I did. Not to worry, you haven't done anything that each of us hasn't done in one fashion or another. And you will hear someone in meetings tell your story, maybe not all of it, but a great portion of it.

(The way it was put to me, "Until someone in AA knows everything you know about yourself, you are nowhere. The result is nil until you tell it all and let go absolutely." So then I asked "How will I know when it is right for me to DO the 5th Step?" and his answer was just as blunt, "When you have to make a conscious decision between DOING the 5th Step or going out and getting drunk, that's when!")

In Step 5, we bring these things we have written out to the light of day, from out of the Shadows of Our Mind, by admitting them to another person, and the God of our understanding.. Having told someone else ALL our life story, we have completed Step 5. (Another Not To Worry -- Even if something of importance has been left out or missed, I can guarantee you "MORE SHALL BE REVEALED")

How can we ask God to get rid of the THINGS we did in our past? WE CAN'T!! He cannot remove things that have already happened. We can ask to get rid of the defects, which caused us to act in the manner we did by taking Step 6. (Steps 8 and 9 handle the restitution for things past, as WE set them right.)

Step 6 is the step that separates the men from the boys. If we can honestly say we are ENTIRELY ready (not almost, not just about, not partially) to have God remove ALL (not some) of these defects, even the ones that were fun, remembering that in step 3 we turned our will and our life over to God's care with complete abandon, then we have completed Step 6.

Step 7 asks us to come up with something we don't have, never had, and are unlikely to come up with anytime soon. But Step 7 is the beginning of acquiring it ... True Humility ... With a simple prayer to our Higher Power, as we ask that ALL our character defects which stand in the way of our usefullness to Him and our fellows be removed, we have completed step 7.

(For myself, I have had to repeat that prayer many, many times, sometimes moment by moment, as I have found that God does not remove a character defect if I am doing it... I have first had to stop from doing it, ask for His help to not do it, and then He removed the need for doing it. Same like with the need to drink, I had to stop first.)

And that is another story, the continuing saga of Steps 10, 11 and 12, as I remember that my spiritual awakening and continuing spiritual awareness is THE RESULT of working, DOING, and LIVING ALL of the 12 Steps! There is no message to carry unless I have done the first 9 Steps and am living the last three. I can't give what I don't have, even though I might want to. I must try to practice the principles of the Steps in ALL my affairs, every day, one day at a time. By that the message is given.

These are the Twelve Simple Principles by which one leads a truly Spiritual Life and completes the learning of the Lessons of Love.

Honesty, Hope, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Brotherly Love, Justice, Perseverance, Spirituality, and Service to One Another. (Those are the character assets we need to acquire.)

NONE of these are possible without the development of TRUST! And that I learned from you!!

After a person objected to the above, as it does not mention in the listing of 20 character defects of any character "assets", and they were looking for a "feel good" in their inventory of "their assets," I added the following ... after thinking about the people I have buried from alcoholism over the years ... and the many who have come whimpering back, time after time after time ... who were constantly looking for a "feel good", and who after looking at the "feel goods" in their inventory, decided "I am not that bad yet."

My sponsors and the BigBook informed me that I was bankrupt in every department, had no stock in trade, that all my "best characteristics" had worked hand in hand with all of my "character defects", the combination of my "best thinking", one excusing the other, to keep me out there and drunk.

They insisted that the inventory was not about making me feel good, it was about deflating my ego in depth and making me determined to clean up my mess. They informed me, "If we (meaning them) find anything that is any good we will let you know!"

I went to a 70 year old dictionary and found this applicable definition of "taking inventory" -- "To make an appraisal, as of one's personal characteristics and liabilities, etc."

This definition is properly in context with the writing and understanding of Steps 4 and 5 in the BigBook in 1938 and 1939.

More On Steps 4, 5, 6 and 7

Yes, there is "some" good in the the worst of us, that is true. How many times has it been said, "He's a grand fellow when he is not drunk." But nowhere in these steps is there a search for character "assets." It is a search for the root causes of our drinking to escape our fears and insecurities, our DEFECTS.

4.Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5.Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

As we work at the fourth, the BigBook does mention that by this time we have begun to learn and demonstrate a few assets, Trust, Faith and Courage. We have begun to develop Self-Honesty, Tolerance of self and others, Patience and Good Will toward all men, and we have commenced to outgrow fear.

The process of the steps is to dig out our character defects, and expose them, so that they can be eliminated, root and branch.

In the beginning paragraph of Chapter 6, Into Action,..

    "We have been trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and to discover the obstacles in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the weak items in our personal inventory. Now these are about to be cast out."
What is to be cast out?? Our Character DEFECTS, those things which we have inventoried and found.... (and more shall be revealed as we develop more assets, like rigorous self-honesty, self-esteem, acceptance of self and forgiveness.)

The BEST reason for being thorough in Steps 4 and 5 in our rooting out of our defects of character, bringing them to light and casting them out, to paraphrase the BigBook,

    "If we skip these vital steps, we may not overcome drinking. More than likely we will drink again."

Or as my sponsors said, "Until someone in AA knows everything you know about yourself, you are nowhere, bud."

Why? Because until ALL our character DEFECTS are uncovered and exposed in Steps 4 and 5, and cast out in Steps 6 and 7, the old thought system still has a basis for return. That's Why!

The reason and need for Steps 6 and 7 is simple to understand, knowing our past failures (and the shame and guilt and fears of our failures) at trying all sorts of ways to correct our defects of character, things that we have already known were wrong, for years, in all the ways mentioned in Chapter 3, ad infinitum... WE CAN'T DO IT ON OUR OWN, WE NEED HELP, and the HELP has to come from somewhere outside ourselves, from a POWER GREATER THAN OURSELF.

In Step 6, the step that "separates the men from the boys," we again demonstrate courage, willingness, trust in our Higher Power, and a few more assets that we have begun to develop, integrity, determination, consistency, and diligence as we repeatedly apply Step 6 to all our character defects - without any reservation of mind or body whatsoever.

Step 7, in all its simplicity, with a simple prayer, is in fact the completion of the decision made in Step 3, we have abandoned ourselves to our Higher Power. (At least for the time being. We have a lifetime ahead of us to learn to make the decision and leave it alone, instead of tinkering with it to make it fit our thinking.) We shall be remaking the decision and repeating the simple prayer many times as we trudge the Road to Happy Destiny.

As we trudge along, over the hills and valleys of life, we see that the practice of all the steps is a day at a time thing, and that the more we adhere to them and LIVE THEM, the sweeter life gets. How Sweet It Is!!!

Love and Peace, Barefoot

Index of AA History Pages on Barefoot's Domain

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of AA with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In AA and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 from the Big Book



Click for my wish for you this day
Click for a Message From Barefoot
Barefoot's World
Email Barefoot
On the Web May 4, 2002 in the Spirit of Cooperation

Three mighty important things, Pardn'r, LOVE And PEACE and SOBRIETY