A lifestyle of peace is an inward change before it ever shows in our actions. Naturally it will show in our actions. I’d be utterly derelict of my duties if I didn’t share with you my dear friends a practical and simple approach for inner transformation. Of course this isn’t something I came up with on my own, but a tried and true method developed in 1939 and perpetuated by 300 or so 12 step programs across the entire planet with millions of members in their various areas of focus (depression, overeating, gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction, life, etc).
I’d like to share this process with you, in the hopes that it will assist you in the revolutionary way it did with me.
This process is simple and straight forward, it’s practical application of scripture in fact. These are the twelve steps and their Biblical comparisons:
THE TWELVE STEPS
AND THEIR BIBLICAL COMPARISONS
Link to a worksheet for step four: Step four pdf
Christianity is really all about living out the mind of Christ. Too many, far, far too many Christians are living as a poor representation of the faith. And as we see, when we fail to live the example day by day no one takes any interest. Our neighbors don’t convert as we seem just as miserable and jaded as ever. This is dereliction of duty. I can hardly fault people for failing to live out the mind of Christ though, as so many preachers have abdicated their duty to preach a practical message.
Tell me if this was your experience at church, because wow it was quite certainly mine. I was told over and over what I ought to be like, holy, loving, caring, forgiving, moral, supporting, and evangelical. Unfortunately, I was never told how to be that. And I imagine a lot just stop there, and assume that there must be something wrong with them, that they aren’t measuring up to being a Christian. So they just leave church, because it’s too hard. Their heart aches as the minister shouts and provokes them to be better than they are, but for some reason they can’t seem to see that change happen. They know who they ought to be, but the minister skipped such a vital step: self examination. We must inwardly change before we can even hope to outwardly change anything effectively.
A moral inventory is a very simple thing. Is it particularly easy? I’m not going to say that it is. This involves a process of looking through ourselves, and seeing where we need changes made. Many would rather face misery and destruction then look honestly inward. I’m asking you today, to be brave in this process. Get a mentality of whatever it takes to serve God. Ask God to help you through the process. Ask him to place it on your heart until it’s done.
How It’s Done:
We make four lists of highly personal information: resentments, fears, harms to others, and sexual harms. Intense right? I know! I love how intense it is. True change is facilitated by utter honesty and willingness.
Here is what it looks like, make five columns:
1:Resentment 2:the cause 3:instinct 4:What did I do? 5:Defect
Put on a sheet of paper these five columns. I’ll explain them. First column will be the resentment in question, or the fear, or the harm I caused, or the sexual harm. Say I have a resentment against my dad, I would put “my dad” in the first column, and it’s as simple as that. A resentment is really a thought that I have over and over about someone, like my dad, because I’m mad or sad about he treated me in the past. Every time I replay that resentment it causes pain in my spirit, and that’s no good, I need to get that out of there so it can be replaced with love and compassion. God does so much of his communication with us humans within our minds and thoughts, and if we have all that garbage in our heads, he can’t communicate effectively with us.
Column two is the cause of my resentment, or the cause of my fear, or for harms or sexual harms it would be what I did to harm the individual. So if in column one I put “my dad” in column two I would write out what is in my head that’s upsetting me about what he did. So I might put something like “he didn’t spend enough time with me when I was younger.” And it’s as simple as that.
Column three is called “instinct” or “the instinct that it affects.” Bill Wilson, the creator of these twelve steps indicated in his writings that humans operate on three basic instincts of life. These basic instincts are called the security instinct, the social instinct, and the sexual instinct. The security instinct refers to caring for myself. My security instinct includes my need for safety, my need for shelter, my need for food, really the basic needs of human survival. My social instinct refers to my interactions with others. My social instinct is really the instinct I have to have friends, to be in communion with family, to be around other human beings. My sexual instinct is my desire for companionship with a female, including physical pleasure, intimate connection, and procreation. Bill Wilson indicates that we all tend to operate by attempting to fulfill our needs in each of these categories. I search desperately for a job when I’m unemployed because it threatens my security instinct. I maintain my friendships because I have a craving that is basic, my social instinct. I search relentlessly for the one true love of my life because I’m attempting to fulfill my need for female companionship, the sexual instinct. We can break down all of our actions, and at the core is one of these three instincts. These instincts are good and right, and God-given writes Bill Wilson, but when one of them gets out of whack, we act out and trouble in our lives and the lives of others is the inevitable result. So with “my dad” being in the first column, and “because he didn’t spend enough time with when I was younger” is in the second column, what would I put for the instinct that is adversely affected? Well that thought, resentment, affects my social instinct. So I would put “social” or “soc.” I’m not done there though, because this resentment also affects my security instinct, as such a thought affects my self esteem. So I would put “soc, sec” in column three.
Column four is the big one. What did I do? As I replayed that resentment over and over in my head, over the years I’ve changed and altered it. That’s completely normal for us as humans to do. We slowly alter the resentment so that it seems like we didn’t even do anything to cause it, and play up the part the other person did. So what did I do to get the ball rolling in this resentment against my dad? Well I never really tried to make time to spend with my dad, and that pattern has continued over the years. We didn’t really have much in common anyway. He was very busy with work a lot of the time. I’m not a judge, I can’t sit back and say this is the exact amount of time a dad should spend with his kid. He was doing the best he could. You see how through this process we can start to see the truth of situations and resentments in our lives? In the fourth column that resentment or fear tends to begin to disappear. By seeing it plain and simple on paper we start to see what’s really going on. We start to replace angry memories with compassion and understanding.
Column five is the tool that helps us to break the pattern of resentment, fear and harm. Column five is called “defect” or “character defect.” There is no need to beat up on ourselves for having a defect. All that matters is that we can now remove it. We don’t have to shout from the roof tops, “look at me with this defect!” But we can change it inwardly. And that’s a brave process to go through. It’s an honorable and God honoring process to go through. Column five is where we put what character defect is holding us back from God’s best. The primary defects that Bill Wilson lists are: selfishness, self seeking and frightened, inconsiderate, and dishonest. “self seeking and frightened” refers to attempting to gain something due to fear, in a wrongful manner.
There are many others that we can list as well like “pride, greed, lust, anger, envy, gluttony, impatience, self pity, suspicion, etc. For my dad, and my resentment regarding not receiving enough attention, which affects my social and security instincts, the defects involved here I’ll put down will probably be: self seeking and frightened (wanting affection, adjusting the resentment over time), selfishness (holding onto the resentment for years damaged my relationship with my father, thats just selfish) and I could also put dishonest and inconsiderate.
This simple process of five columns, and seeing that we were doing is incredibly profound. Resentments, fear, and harms that have held us back for years in our thoughts, things that have dogged us day and night can be removed and diminished so very simply. You know it’s of God when it’s infinitely simple, yet powerfully complex and wonderful in it’s results! I beg you to try this. Think about what’s holding you back. What goes on in your mind? I know a lot of the resentments that we put down, we will feel like we didn’t do anything and that we’re justified in holding on to them. Well, when it first happened it was very hurtful and they did hurt us. But when we replay it in our own head, we’re hurting ourselves. And maybe we want to hold onto these resentments and problems because then we can use the resentment as justification for a poor situation. Well if you truly want to honor God and you truly want to have a lifestyle of peace, this is a powerful and simple way. Just try it. I think you’ll be astounded by the results.
The resentments sheet, and the fears sheet will look exactly like those five columns, just list them one by one. Say for my fears sheet, just like the resentments sheet I’d put down a fear, say “of talking to people I don’t know.” Next column, “because I don’t know them and they might hurt me or be rude”. Third column, “social and security instincts” Fourth column, “because I’ve been hurt in the past by friends and family, because I tend to see the worst in people, etc.” Fifth column, “self seeking and frightened, fear, self-pity, suspicion.” And it’s just that simple, fear by fear, I can clear out a lot of unneeded fear in my life.
With the harms and sexual harms sheets, the columns will look a little different. More like this:
1 Who did I harm? 2 How did I harm them? 3 Instinct (soc, sec, sex) 4 Where should I have done? 5 Defect
So the 1st column would be say my friend “John Smith.” The 2nd column would be “I made fun of him to my other friends when he wasn’t there.” 3rd column, which instinct was out of whack? My social instinct, and maybe my security instinct, if I did it because of low self esteem. “Where should I have done?” Well, I should have not been talking behind his back, and I should have come to him directly with any issues I had. 5th column, what was the character defect? Probably self seeking and frightened.
So that’s step four in a nutshell. Most of us will probably come up with 10-20 pages of stuff, for me it was a lot longer. Others might only have a few pages. It all depends on the person.
Step five is: 5) Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
By going through this fourth step we’ve admitted to ourselves our resentments, fears and harms. Now we take this information to another human being. For most of us being Christians, this will be our Minister or Pastor. Confession is a biblical principle, and it’s something we have to do. By going through all of this stuff with someone, we unload it from our spirits. A great deal is healed from just going over it ourselves, but that just isn’t enough. If you’re a member of a church and you wouldn’t want the preacher you see daily to know some of these things, then set up an appointment with another minister or a Christian counselor somewhere in your area. If you have a therapist you see, you could request to do it with them. If you have a close friend you can also do it with them. Step five is huge, because it cleans out our spirit. We’ve kept many things to ourselves for years, and it’s time to unload it from the spirit. Trust me on this one, it’s worth it.