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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Moral inventory shapes our understanding of ourselves, which in turn shapes our relationship with God.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Some styles of inventory ask us to take a hard look at our character defects, and this can create a powerful sense of our need for God. O...
Cover of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story...
Some styles of inventory ask us to take a hard look at our character defects, and this can create a powerful sense of our need for God. Other styles of inventory encourage us to look not just at our shortcomings but at our strengths as well, and so the sense of need for God is not as strong. If we write according to the first style of inventory, we are more likely to enter into an intimate relationship with God, whereas if we write according to the second style, our relationship with God might become more cooperative.
Because moral inventory affects how we understand ourselves in relation to God, it might be helpful to look at what the various styles of inventory are and how they operate. If we know the basic assumptions of a particular style of inventory, we have a better idea about whether it is a good match for us. This article examines four styles of moral inventory: the Four Absolutes, the inventory based on the Big Book, the inventory presented in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and the inventory presented in a Step 4 guide published by Hazelden. Although these are not the only styles of inventory available, these four will give us some insight into various trends at work in the recovery culture, and some understanding of how we can get started.
Four Absolutes
The Four Absolutes are a tool that was used by the Oxford Group, an evangelistic ministry that described itself as “a First Century Christian Fellowship.” Because the Twelve Steps were derived from the practices of the Oxford Group, we find the roots of moral inventory in the Four Absolutes.
The Absolutes are Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love. Oxford Group members believed that these four qualities were perfectly expressed in the life of Jesus, and so they represent an ideal for human conduct.
When writing the Four Absolutes, Oxford group members often folded a piece of paper into quarters and then wrote one Absolute at the top of each section. Group members then examined their own lives against the example of Christ and wrote down, to the best of their ability, all the ways in which they were deficient. The Four Absolutes were meant as a guide to help members discover their sin, which in Oxford Group understanding meant anything that kept the soul separated from God.
Writing the Four Absolutes brought about a sense of conviction. Oxford Group members discovered themselves to be sinners; they were dishonest, impure, selfish and unloving. They were broken people in need of a savior. The Four Absolutes helped them to expose the fact that their way of living was not working. After writing the Absolutes, members turned their lives over to the care of Jesus Christ. In Oxford Group belief, God provided guidance to the fully surrendered soul. This guidance served in place of selfishness and self-will as the driving force in a member’s life.
As Oxford Group members turned to God rather than to themselves for direction, their decision-making process became central to their relationship with God. When faced with any decision, they prayed and asked to be shown the right answer. Whatever answers came were then tested against the Four Absolutes–for the right answer was always as honest, pure, unselfish and loving as possible.
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