A waltz is danced to music that has three beats to the measure. Think of “My Cup Runneth Over (with Love)” or “Morning Has Broken.” Imagine Cinderella at the ball. It is beautiful, sweeping, romantic. When learning to dance the waltz, the instructor and the dancers can be heard counting to themselves, “One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three,” in time to the music.
In the 12-Step program there is also a 1-2-3 waltz. It is not beautiful. It is not romantic. It happens when someone starts working the program, gets through the first 3 steps, gets stuck on the 4th Step inventory, relapses (or not) and returns to Step 1. Over. And over. And over again. I did the 1-2-3 waltz for the first 8 years I was in the program.
Why Do We Get Stuck on the Step 4 Inventory?
Step 4 is Hard
Step 4 is hard! The first three steps are hard, too, if we really work them. But many newcomers to the program, especially those who have a background that includes a faith tradition, think they already know they need God, are not afraid to admit it and, at least nominally, turn their will and their lives over to Him. When they get to Step 4, they have to sit down with a pen and paper and review their whole lives, trying to find everything bad (or good) they have ever done. That is hard! It is called a “searching and fearless moral inventory.” Many of us have spent much of our lives running away from our fears. Doing a searching and fearless moral inventory seems overwhelming. We are not sure we can honestly face all the things that we have done, all the people we have hurt, all the bad decisions we have made.
We May Not Be Ready
Each step prepares us for the next one. As a general rule, I have found that if I am stuck on any step, I probably need to go back to the previous step, dig a little deeper, and be a little more honest. Truly turning our will and our lives over to the Lord may be easier said than done. If we haven’t really dug deeply enough in Step 3, we aren’t really ready to access His power to do a searching and fearless moral inventory.
We Don’t Know How to Do It
Never having done such a thing before, we don’t even know where to start. There are some suggestions in the ARP Guide and other 12-Step books (see my Resources page), but there are so many different ways to do it! How do we know which one is right for us? And as we begin, we have questions. How do we know if we are doing it right? Who should we ask for advice?
We are Not Accountable to Anyone
One of the ways we get hard things done in our lives is to be accountable to someone else: a parent, a teacher, a team, a boss, a spouse, a friend. Many of us find it hard to implement changes in our lives or do new things if there is no one holding us accountable for following through on our goals.
How Do We Break the Cycle?
If You Don’t Have a Sponsor, Find One
It is hard to work the program effectively without an accountability partner. A sponsor is is an accountability partner, but much more than that. A sponsor is someone who has walked this path before us and is willing to share his/her journey with us. A sponsor will understand how hard it is to do an inventory and offer words of encouragement and suggestions to consider when we are struggling.
Dig Deeper on the First Three Steps
If we do feel a need to start over with steps 1, 2, and 3, it needs to be different this time. It needs to be deeper. We need to make outreach calls, and talk to others about their recovery. We need to follow the suggestions of a sponsor. We can try using the tool of writing more. There are additional 12-Step books that might be helpful (see my Resources page). Especially on Step 3, we need to spend some time on our knees and make sure that we have really done the work, that we are really willing to do the Lord’s will even if it is not what we want to do.
Become Willing to Receive the Lord’s Enabling Power
The Atonement is a power that works for redemption at the end of life, and it is also an enabling power that gives us the strength to do hard things now. Watch Brad Wilcox’ amazing talk, His Grace is Sufficient or read Elder Bednar’s wonderful article from the April 2012 Ensign: The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality for more insight on how grace (the power of the Atonement) can work in your life.
“And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33) When you rely on the Lord’s grace to do the things that are expedient unto Him, you will be able to do things you never thought you could do.
Just Do It
So what if you are afraid? You have done other things you were afraid to do and lived to tell about it. Program literature clarifies that “fearless” does not mean “without fear.” Rather, it means that we do the inventory to the best of our ability without allowing our fear to stop us.
So what if you don’t know the “best” way, or the “right” way to do your inventory? Just prayerfully pick an approach. No one is giving you a grade for this. No one is going to tell you you did it wrong. You get as many chances as you want to do it again and try another way. There is no right way, no wrong way. Just do it.
- Are you stuck in the 1-2-3 Waltz?
- If so, what do you think is keeping you from moving forward with Step 4?
- What are you willing to do today to trust God, rely on His power, dig deeper, and receive the blessings and promises available to you?
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