What is a Moral Inventory?

Some people say AA stands for Altered Attitude, a slogan that is apropos to the group. AA is an experience that totally changes a person, including their attitudes. Not only do the 12-steps of the program enable one to learn effective methods of ending alcoholism they also encourage members to recondition themselves into better all-around people. One of the ways this is accomplished is through moral inventory.

Step four of the 12-step program says members have:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The Big Book suggests writing this down, that is, putting your moral inventory in writing. Not only does this help you organize your thoughts, but by looking at what you’ve written, you may think of other things that can be important.

Everyone has behaviors and compulsions that they must overcome and control. The purpose of a moral inventory is to examine the causes of these and to look at specific examples of things that need to be changed. If you do not address the reasons for these behaviors, you will be unable to anticipate the behaviors and compulsions they lead to, which means you will be unprepared to avoid resuming the things that led to your addiction. In addition, the moral inventory will help with later steps, such as making amends to those you have wronged.

The moral inventory is a difficult, but necessary step. A searching and fearless moral inventory means you will have to examine things you would prefer not to think about while trying to understand your actions. You will have to overcome fear and pride in order to do this successfully. Fear will prevent you from closely examining yourself while pride will get in the way of an honest evaluation. With humility and courage, you can review even those aspects of your past which are painful to you. Through self-understanding will come the ability to forgive yourself and move forward.

You can share your inventory with anyone you wish, usually with your sponsor or other person you are close with. Your moral inventory is something you can carry with you for the rest of your life, always looking back and making necessary adjustments and improvements. Take step four as seriously as possible, because it is a vital tool. Think of it as a checklist of things you need to work on to improve. Your moral inventory isn’t designed to bring you down, rather provide you with the strength that you need to carry out the mission at hand – helping you stay sober after treatment.

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