The Church’s 12-step addiction recovery plan is a great tool to use in improving our lives and coming unto Christ. Everyone can use these steps—whether they have binding addictions or not.
This is when we make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of our life.
Being truthful and not justifying our weaknesses, addictions, or sins is vital to healing. Searching ourselves and making a fearless written inventory helps us make this step.
Writing a fearless and thorough inventory of our life will not be easy. Fearless does not mean we will have no feelings of fear. As we survey our life, including embarrassment, shame and fear, we will likely experience many emotions. Fearless means we won’t let our fears stop us from being thorough (or honest) in the inventory process.
This isn’t the time to play the blame game by justifying our bad behavior or casting fault for our problems on other people, places, or things. We’ve moved beyond that immature action.
This is the time to accept responsibility for our past and current actions no matter how painful, embarrassing or difficult it may be.
Trust that God will help us when we face the truth and own it.
A personal inventory is useful for everyone, whether we struggle with major addicting sins or minor ones. All sin keeps us from being close to God, so there is no ‘good’ or ‘lesser’ sin.
Sin is sin.
By writing down our thoughts, feelings and being brutally honest, we can identify negative thoughts, emotions and actions that might hinder progress. When we discover these through the writing process, we can take steps toward correcting them.
There is no single right way to do an inventory. It is personal and we should seek the Lord’s guidance through prayer in doing one. He, who knows us best, can help us be truthful while still helping us feel loved as we sort through memories and feelings.
Four critical elements
These elements are essential to a successful moral inventory—writing, honesty, support, and prayer. These will help you recognize and overcome sins and shortcomings.
Writing helps one to discover. With concrete evidence of your thoughts and feelings in hand, you can review and refer to it often and unravel the mysteries of yourself. Unwritten thoughts fade and are forgotten. A written moral inventory allows you to think more clearly and focus.
Look beyond past behaviors and examine thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that led to behavior. These are the roots of addictive behaviors. Unless we examine all our tendencies toward fear, pride, resentment, anger, self-will, and self-pity, our abstinence will be shaky at best. We will continue with our original addiction or switch to another one. Addiction [or sin] is a symptom of other “causes and conditions” (Alcoholics Anonymous , 64).
It is important to be prayerful as we do our inventory and leave the process open-ended and add to it as memories come. After finishing, seek the Lord’s guidance in learning from what is written.
Being honest about the sinful behavior can be terrifying. Often people avoid looking too closely at themselves in the mirror of the past, fearing the reflection may reveal the truth of what their lives have become. Taking the fourth step makes you face the truth about your life and fears squarely.
You aren’t only trying to discover weaknesses in this inventory. That is only half the truth. You are seeking to understand your strengths as well. These are easy to pick out in others, but sometimes hard to realize in ourselves.
As you become willing to see the whole truth about your past—good and bad—you allow the powers of heaven to reveal truth and help you put the past in proper perspective. The Lord will help you change your life’s course and fulfill your divine potential.
The encouragement and support of others who understand recovery can help you in your efforts. They can guide you in discovering the method, structure, or approach that will work best for you in reviewing your past. They can encourage you if you get discouraged.
I can’t say enough good about this one. As you turn to God for comfort, courage, and guidance, He will give you all that you need and more. That is the truth. I know it for myself. If you pray each time you sit down to write your inventory, your Heavenly Father will help you. Guaranteed.
Freeing Yourself from the Past
Upon completing a truthful self-inventory, we have taken a major step in freeing ourselves from behaviors that defined our past. Have you ever moved away from an area and been able to redefine yourself because there are no people in your new town who know you? If you were shy before, you can act social with strangers who don’t have expectations about you.
This step gives you that same chance to throw out the painful past and step toward a new horizon.
It gives you the chance to be the real you.
- Write in a personal journal—writing is a powerful tool in recovery and staying on the right course.
- Seek guidance from the Holy Ghost- Prayerfully writing about your life gives the Holy Ghost an opportunity to show and help you understand potential lessons that come from your experiences.
- Make an accounting of your life, past and present– Completing an inventory takes time. There is no need to rush through it, but do get started. Where you begin is not as important as eventually examining your past as far as your memory and the Lord’s inspiration takes you. Your inventory is about you and your relationship with yourself, God, and others. As you gather courage to see yourself as you really are, God will open your eyes to see yourself as He sees you—as one of His children with a divine birthright.
- Remember your sins no more-After completing your inventory and when the time is right, those portions that include negative or angry expressions, accounts of personal transgressions, and any other sensitive matters that should not be shared with others or passed down to future generations should be destroyed. The destruction of these writings can be a symbol of your repentance and a powerful way to let go.
I’ll end with this quote by Richard G. Scott that states so powerfully why Step 4—Truth—is so important, even vital to our eternal happiness.
I invite each one of you to thoughtfully review your life. Have you deviated from the standards that you know will bring happiness? Is there a dark corner that needs to be cleaned out? Are you now doing things that you know are wrong? Do you fill your mind with unclean thoughts? When it is quiet and you can think clearly, does your conscience tell you to repent?
“For your peace now and for everlasting happiness, please repent. Open your heart to the Lord and ask Him to help you. You will earn the blessing of forgiveness, peace, and the knowledge you have been purified and made whole. Find the courage to ask the Lord for strength to repent now. (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 103; or Ensign, May 1995, 77).
Being honest with yourself and with the Lord, who is also known as the “Spirit of truth” (D&C 93:9), is the key to escaping binding lies. As we come to know God, His power and presence in our life will free us from addiction and sin…and leave room for joy to be poured in to overflowing.
That is the power of God’s grace.
He wants us to succeed. No addiction…no sin…no weakness…no character flaw is too strong for Jesus Christ to conquer. That is why it is so important to let Him into our life. Alone we are weak. We are infallible and prone to fail.
But with God, all things are possible.