I seldom had a problem of taking the inventory of another. After all I was only telling the truth about that person. What arrogance and blindness! That’s bad enough for a lay person but I was an ordained priest. I knew better, but my friends, Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker and company only helped to make me laugh it off and bury the guilt and shame of my behavior.
I spent five weeks in a four-week program so I could complete my fourth step. To the best of my knowledge I had seldom, if ever, done any harm to anyone. “Bless me father, for I have sinned. I told (?) lies, I had impure thoughts, I was disobedient, I was angry (?) times……..” and the list I had memorized in childhood I could repeat with some minor variation.
“Seamus, the fourth step is not about getting ready for confession. It is about an internal evaluation of yourself; getting to know yourself, your strengths and weakness, your qualities both positive and negative.”
I had avoided getting to know myself for thirty-three years and had, I thought, done a good job at hiding behind a variety of masks. “If they only knew…..” “They” knew more about me than I knew about myself. My first attempt at a fourth step was superficial and, sadly, sufficient for me to graduate.
Recovery came slowly. I did not need a sponsor. With a degree in theology, courses in counseling, certified as an addictions counselor, I was going to be a “big help” to those in recovery. I read the Big Book to quote it at the next meeting and “look good.” God has a wonderful sense of humour. She sent angels to sponsor me. Two Bostonians, former jailbirds, and absolutely grace-filled people.
“What is a character defect?” I asked. “What is there about…..you don’t like?’ was the response and, without hesitation, I listed what I didn’t like about the mentioned individual. “Seamus, what we see and like in another is also in us. What we see and don’t like is also in us but we don’t like talking about it.”
So, with pen in hand, a legal pad, I began again my Step Four. I listed the Ten Commandments; the seven deadly sins, a list of virtues. I had many of my own gods. In fact, from what others shared with me, it seemed that I had become my own god. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. Me, myself and I were my Trinity.
No, I had not honored my parents, not the honor I believe now I should have given them. No, I had no murdered anyone but, Yes, I had seriously wounded some individuals with my tongue. Oh, my tongue was very sharp at times. I have stolen time from those who wanted my time. I was there physically but not always mentally or emotionally. I was jealous of the material things others had and I could not afford; I may have taken a vow of celibacy but “the spirit is willing yet the flesh is weak.”
The Seven Deadly Sins are listed as: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Laziness, Anger, Envy, Pride. These are considered “deadly” as they prevent us from being the Spiritual people we are trying to be. Anger and Fear are like a hand and glove. I did not want to acknowledge my fear so most people experienced my anger. It came out straight or sideways, or passive aggressively. I ate and drank to extremes. Not having the humility to ask for help, I prided myself in my knowledge. And the list goes on. Whatever Virtues I may have had I was much more aware of their opposite in my behavior.
The end result of making ‘a fearless and moral inventory” of myself was freedom and peace of mind; putting my life in perspective and opening up to see myself as others see me; to see goodness and know that mistakes are human, that failure is an opportunity to grow, that’s being human, and Humans are spiritual people attempting to be human.
I believe that, for me, I had to return to Step One and accept the full implications of that step followed by a deeper understanding of Step two. Step three opened the door to trust and risk taking. All of this was the foundation that helped me realize the depth of what Step Four calls us to be and become. Yes, at times it is difficult to see ourselves but then, to see ourselves as our Higher Power sees us - it is a wonderful gift of love.