A Study of Step 5

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs

Chairs in a circle
Step 5 May Be the Hardest Step for Some. © Getty Images

Probably the most difficult of all the steps to take, Step 5 is also the one that provides the greatest opportunity for growth.

Step 5
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

What an order! Admitting wrongs to God and to ourselves is one thing, but to actually tell someone else the exact nature of our wrongs can be a frightening task indeed. After years of "keeping secrets" and hiding faults and shortcomings, openly admitting them -- and out loud to another human being -- is a drastic turnaround.

But just as the 12 Steps themselves are in a specific order for a reason, the process outlined within Step 5 is likewise. There is a reason that the first admission of wrongs is to God as we understand him. It prepares members for the rest of the step.

No, admitting to God the nature of our wrongs is not informing Him of anything that He doesn't already know. But by having that conversation with a personal higher power in a spirit of prayer, the things that need to be changed are revealed! The exact nature of our wrongs have been discovered along with the ways that they need to be changed.

Once you have had the integrity to become honest with God, then becoming honest with yourself and another human being becomes much easier. Perhaps more than any other step in the process, Step 5 provides the chance to begin "growing up" spiritually and gives the opportunity to unload the burdens of the past.

Visitors to this site have shared their experience with Step 5. Their stories begin here:

Step 5: Eliminating Pride

I have, so far never run into anyone who said they had an "easy" time with step 5. If we have done the 4th step properly, it is usually a gut wrenching examination of ourselves.

These wrongs usually didn't center just around our homes.

If this inventory, or "examination" is taken honestly we usually find a lot more than we are willing to admit on first examination. I know it was this way for me. The reason for this "short" list of wrongs was pride!

When it came time to admit these wrongs to God I could be a little more thorough. After all He already knows everything about me. Admitting them to another human being was a different story. I was afraid I'd look "bad" in another persons eyes. Eventually I took my list to my sponsor and we went over it.

She asked me "is that all"? Have you been completely honest? She then advised me that if I had not been thorough the only person to suffer would be me! I might even drink over any omissions! She also warned me that pride could be my problem (my list was really short). I took this into consideration and decided for me I had better go back and do a little more soul searching. I did not want to drink again. I believed if I did I would die.

So, what I guess I am trying to say is just be sure you have done a through job of your 4th step. If you have then the 5th step will follow right along. Talking to your sponsor is the best way I know to get you on the right track. I couldn't have done "any" of the steps without my sponsor.

Once I completed the 5th step I felt a freedom I had never known. All the old garbage I had been lugging around for so many years fell away. My conscience was finally clear!! That day was the beginning of a new life!


The Exact Nature of My Wrongs

Having done a thorough and fearless Step 4 by the example in the Big Book, including all 4 columns, gave me the insight into what Step 5 was really asking of me. So taking my Inventory in hand, I read it out loud to God, so that I had to hear and admit it to myself and then I set up a time to visit my Sponsor and gave it all up to her!

I discovered that I wasn't all bad, nor was I all good.

I was a human being with the disease of alcoholism and would have a lifetime of discovering the good, the bad, and the indifference of me. What a freedom!! What a joy to join the human race again and look them square in the eyes!

Knowledge of the "exact nature of my wrongs" gave me a starting place to begin living the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions given to me by Alcoholics Anonymous. With God's Grace I do that one day at a time to the best of my capability and willingness. It gave meaning to "progress, not perfection of Spiritual growth".


Dealing with Fear

My first attempt at Step 5 was dismal. I began by reciting a complete confessional. My "other human being" stopped me after a few minutes. "What", he said "is the exact nature of all these wrongs?"

I replied that either it was my family, or else I did not know. "You cannot blame others, and therefore you do not know" he responded. "Go back and work step 4 again."

I did, and then heard something in a meeting that made complete sense. Another attendee said during comments, "Many say that it was anger, jealousy, envy, whatever. But the root cause of all of those things is fear."

Fear. I had to consider that one. And the more I examined it, the more I found that fear was not only the exact nature of my wrongs, but it was the sole governing factor of my life from birth to the present.

The exact nature of my wrongs was fear. So during my next attempt at Step 5, I gave a couple of representative examples of the wrongs I had done, but very clearly told my listener that fear was the exact nature of those wrongs, and all the others.

"That's right" he said. "Congratulations on taking a successful fifth step."


Cleaning Up the Past

I think of this as a freedom step. In order for us to make progress, we need to get rid of the old dark secrets. God knows all of our past, however we need to admit to him and ask forgiveness. By doing this, we can see ourselves where we were wrong. A secret shared is one lessened.

What a relief to air out all the festering sickness that I knew was on my soul! As Step 5 was finished, I truly felt a peace and cleansing. Coming out of a cocoon of addiction and lies, I then was ready to go forward into the sunshine.


Index of 12 Steps and Traditions Study

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