Definition of Step Four – Courage:
The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.

Synonyms of Step Four – Courage:
Braveness, pluckiness, fearlessness, intrepidness,  daring, etc.

These notes are from recovery in AA and/or related 12 step programs.
Readers are encouraged to click external links for more detail.
We hope you find them helpful.

Love in fellowship.

Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. | More…

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. | More…


Before tackling the inventory problem in detail, let’s have a closer look at what the basic problem is. –12 & 12 p.43 | More…

Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender.
It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. –Big Book P.64 | More…

When to do the Fourth Step
Any time between NEXT p.63, and AT ONCE p.64

The Big Book says….. We were now at Step Three…. (Made a decision to turn our will (thinking) and our lives (actions) of to the care of God) This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.

NEXT we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning… —Big Book p.63 Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless AT ONCE followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. —Big Book p.64


we approach this step, most of us are afraid that there is a monster inside of us that, if released, will destroy us.

We can only change what we acknowledge and understand. Rather than continuing to fear what’s buried inside us, we can bring it out into the open. –Just For Today | More…

It’s unfortunate that members sometimes refer to the Twelve step idea as a Selfish Program.What we’re really trying to say, it seems, is that our true self-interest lies in the direction of helping others and sharing our experience and strength with them.

To do this is to lose the “bondage of self” that is so destructive in the life of every compulsive person. When people say that ours is a selfish program, they really intend to convey the idea that it’s a “self-improvement” program. –Walk in Dry Places/Mel B | More…

With us, to drink is to die… It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.

To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worthwhile. This business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal.

For when harbouring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. –Big Book p.66 | More…


Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?

Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame?

The inventory was ours, not the other man’s.
When we saw our faults we listed them.

We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight. –Big Book p.67 | More…

Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. –Big Book p.62 | More…

It is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. –12 & 12 p.53 | More…


Alibi; Our first attempts at inventories are apt to prove very unrealistic. I used to be a champ at unrealistic self-appraisal.

On certain occasions, I wanted to look only at the part of my life which seemed good. Then I would greatly exaggerate whatever virtues I supposed I had attained.

Next I would congratulate myself on the grand job I was doing in A.A. I had the best alibi known–the spiritual alibi. The fact that I really did have a spiritual objective made this utter nonsense seem perfectly right. –As Bill Sees It | More… (p.193)

Inventory; The moral inventory is a cool examination of the damages that occurred to us during life and a sincere effort to look at them in a true perspective.

This has the effect of taking the ground glass out of us, the emotional substance that still cuts and inhibits. In my recovery, I learned that the pain of my defects is the very substance God uses to cleanse my character and to set me free. –Daily Reflections | More…


Honesty; The goal isn’t to do a successful inventory. The goal is to dig to the deepest levels of self-honesty.

The Fourth Sep is the hardest one for many newcomers in the program. It is so difficult, in fact, that some of us still waiting to do it are no longer newcomers.

It’s so hard to be honest with ourselves, that some of us never accomplish it. The consequences of this are a low self-esteem, which draws us toward failure.

Help is available, though. God, who knows all about us, is willing to help us get honest with ourselves.

We only need to ask. Until we become honest with ourselves, we can’t grow spiritually. –In God’s Care/Karen Casey | More…


Inventory: Our program calls for a “searching and fearless” moral inventory. What this means is complete honesty about who and what we really are.

We should not tap-dance around our problems in order to evade responsibility. This will not bring the cleansing we need for real sober living.

We need deep changes, not mere surface ones. Difficult as it is to be fully honest, it’s made easier when we remind ourselves that it’s all for our own recovery.

We benefit in proportion to the amount of honesty we bring to our inventory. If it’s searching and fearless, the results will be far-reaching and substantial. –Walk In Dry Places/Mel B. | More…

The Fourth Step suggests we make a searching and fearless moral inventory — not an immoral inventory of ourselves. The Steps are guidelines to recovery, not whipping posts for self-flagellation. Taking my inventory doesn’t mean concentrating on my shortcomings until all the good is hidden from view. –A Day At A Time | More…


Defects; Fault, failing, weakness, flaw, shortcoming, and inadequacy are all synonyms for the word defect. Character refers to the mental and moral qualities of an individual. Defects of character implies moral and psychological flaws and failings in an individual.

Blame; At Step Four we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened?

Though a given situation had not been entirely our fault, we often tried to cast the whole blame on the other person involved. We finally saw that the inventory should be ours, not the other man’s. –As Bill Sees It | More… (p.222)

First, we take a look backward and try to discover where we have been at fault. As a traveller on a fresh and exciting A.A. journey of recovery, I experienced a newfound peace of mind and the horizon appeared clear and bright.

I had to look at the damage I had done, and become willing to make amends. Only then could my journey of the spirit resume. –Daily Reflections 12/08 | More…


Some people insist that a culprit must be found when things go awry. We must be careful not to buy into this practice in three ways:

FIRST, we must avoid being held responsible for problems we didn’t cause.
SECOND, we must also avoid any personal guilt for such problems.
THIRD, we must not fall into the trap of unfairly blaming other people.

The best use of energy we spend hunting down culprits is to fix what’s within our powers, to have the courage to change the things (we) can. –Walk In Dry Places/Mel B. | More…

We cannot hang on to feelings of shame and guilt and still hope to become better people.
We need to take a thorough inventory of our wrongdoings, admit them, make repairs, and let them go.

Often, we believe our shame is greater than that of others. This belief is usually untrue and grandiose.

It’s part of how we isolate ourselves, we don’t have to face it alone. We have the help of other men and women who can listen to our pain and tell us about their experiences. –Touchstones | More…


It is often said that you can’t tell a book by its cover. For many of us, our “covers” or surface records haven’t looked all that bad;  it seemed at first, that making an inventory would be a breeze.”

As we proceeded, we were dismayed to discover that our “covers” were relatively blemish-free only because we’d deeply buried our defects beneath layers of self-deception. For that reason, self-searching can be a long-term process; it must go on for as long as we remain blind to the flaws that ambushed us into addiction and misery. –A Day At A Time | More…

We slowly learned that something had to be done about our vengeful resentments, self-pity, and unwarranted pride. –12 & 12 p.47 | More…

To see how erratic emotions victimized us often took a long time. We could perceive them quickly in others, but only slowly in ourselves. –12 & 12 p.47 | More…

Human beings are never quite alike, so each of us, when making an inventory, will need to determine what his individual character defects are.  –12 & 12 p.48 | More…

Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and destructive handicaps. –As Bill See It | More… (p.96)


Some of us aren’t too keen on writing out our Fourth Step; others take it to an obsessive extreme. To our sponsor’s growing dismay, we inventory ourselves again and again.

We discover everything there is to know about why we were the way we were. We have the idea that thinking, writing, and talking about our past is enough.

We hear none of our sponsor’s suggestions to become entirely ready to have our defects removed or make amends for the harm we’ve caused.

We simply write more about those defects and delightedly share our fresh insights.  Finally, our worn-out sponsor withdraws from us in self-defence.–Just for Today | More…

When A.A. suggests a fearless moral inventory, it must seem to every newcomer that more is being asked of him than he can do. Every time he tries to look within himself, Pride says, “You need not pass this way,” and Fear says, “You dare not look!”

But pride and fear of this sort turn out to be bogymen, nothing else. Once we have a complete willingness to take inventory, and exert ourselves to do the job thoroughly, a wonderful light falls upon this foggy scene. –As Bill Sees It | More… (p.261)


We need to deal with an old resentment flaring up, as if it were a brand-new problem; and in a sense, it is. As for questioning our past sincerity, that too is a waste of time.
Resentments can and do return, but they don’t have to destroy us. –Walk In Dry Places/Mel B. | More…

Beginning the AA program, we are inclined to feel that our problems and difficulties are largely due to circumstances and other people. The more we work the Steps, the more we realize that our troubles are within, rather than without.

We see that the root of our difficulty lies in being centered on self instead of centered in our Higher Power. Our Higher Power removes our character defects as we become willing to let go of them.

Honest awareness is our first task, and this is facilitated by maintaining abstinence.
Abstinence gives us the honesty and the energy to change. As we change, circumstances and relationships improve. –Food For Thought | More…

It’s not the awareness of our defects that causes the most agony—it’s the defects themselves. Refusing to acknowledge the source of our anguish doesn’t make it go away; denial protects the pain and makes it stronger.


The Twelve Steps help us deal with the misery caused by our defects by dealing directly with the defects themselves. If we hurt from the pain of our defects, we can remind ourselves of the nightmare of addiction, a nightmare from which we’ve now awakened.

We can recall the hope for release the Second Step gave us. We can again turn our will and our lives over, through the Third Step, to the care of the God of our understanding.

Our Higher Power cares for us by giving us the help we need to work the rest of the Twelve Steps. We don’t have to fear our feelings.  –Just For Today | More…

We don’t need to limit an inventory of ourselves to the negatives. Focusing only on what’s wrong is a core issue in our codependency. Recovery is not about eliminating our personality.

Recovery aims at changing, accepting, working around, or transforming our negatives, and building on our positives. We all have assets; we only need to focus on them, empower them, and draw them out in ourselves. –The Language of Letting Go/Melody Beattie | More…


Even while drinking, few of us abused others physically or committed crimes. Perhaps the worst harm was in being completely indifferent to what we were doing to others. Any willingness to admit wrong, then, can be a major step toward recovery and self-improvement. –Walk In Dry Places/Mel B. 23/10 | More…

This step is really about courage to honestly look at ourselves. Take a look at how our behavior has become warped to justify our continued behavior.

We are here to take an honest assessment of ourselves. Looking at causes and conditions of our alcoholic behavior can be scary. | More…

Instead of trying to bury the past, let’s keep it in view but let it be purified by the sunlight of honesty and humility. By admitting past wrongs and forgiving everyone involved…. including ourselves….. we turn our past into useful experience.  –Walk In Dry Places/Mel B. | More…

Which is worse: blaming ourselves or others for things that go wrong? We’re really better off, in 12 Step living, to begin dropping the idea of placing blame for our thinking altogether. Another problem is that placing blame quickly becomes the sticky business of taking another person’s inventory. –Walk In Dry Places/Mel B. | More…


Bill W. considered each step to be a spiritual principle in and of itself. The most important of these is Humility.

Core Spiritual Principles of the Program:  Willingness, Open-mindedness, Honesty. AA’s Code:  Love and Tolerance of Others

The Principles of the Twelve Steps

Step One:            Honesty
Step Two:            Hope
Step Three:         Faith (Surrender)
Step Four:           Courage
Step Five:            Integrity
Step Six:              Willingness
Step Seven:         Humility
Step Eight:          Brotherly love
Step Nine:           Discipline
Step Ten:             Perseverance
Step Eleven:       Awareness
Step Twelve:      Service (Charity)

The relative success of the A.A. program seems to be due to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks has an exceptional faculty for “reaching” and helping an uncontrolled drinker. The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society. The five principles of the Twelve Step Program are; membership requirement, spiritual basis, personal inventory, restitution, and helping others. | More…


To avoid falling into confusion over the names defects should be called, let’s take a universally recognized list of major human failings—the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security,and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses. Fear, a soul-sickness in its own right, generate more character defects; fear that our instincts will not be satisfied, to covet possessions of others, to lust for sex, and to become angry when our demands are not threatened, to be envious of others. We stay lazy. Fears are termites that ceaselessly devious our foundations..

Pride and fear turn out to be bogeymen, nothing else. The search for defects is just a beginning of a lifetime practice, How have we reacted to frustration in sexual matters? What defects contributed to our financial instability. Did fear fill us with conflict? Was I extravagant. Wai I a pinch-penny, The most common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression. This kind of insecurity may arise
in any area where instincts are threatened. We fail to recognize our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us. Defects ambushed us into alcoholism and misery. –12 & 12 | More…

We thought “conditions” drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct these conditions and found that we couldn’t to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were. –12 & 12 | More…


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