Step 4 Prayer

The Fourth Step Prayer

Freedom from Resentment

Most people initially baulk at the idea of wishing for good to come to people who have hurt them, or made them angry.

To overcome this hurdle we first need to understand "resentment", and appreciate the damage that carrying resentments does to ourselves.

When you have found the desire to overcome your resentments you are ready to proceed...

Overcoming Resentments

The process of overcoming a resentment is a two-step process:

  1. Firstly, we express compassion for the person who has angered us, by saying the fourth step prayer, as described on page 66 of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous), then
  2. Secondly, we pray for the person who has angered us, as described in the "Freedom from Bondage" story on page 552 of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.

Here are these two steps, which will replace resentment with peace of mind:

Step Four Prayer

When a person offended we said to ourselves,

"This is a sick man.
How can I be helpful to him?
God save me from being angry.
Thy will be done.

The Step 4 Prayer from "How it Works"
page 66 of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous

Replacing Resentment with Love

If you have a resentment you want to be free of,
if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent,
you will be free.

If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them,
you will be free.

Ask for their health, their prosperity, and their happiness
you will be free.

Even when you don't really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don't mean it, go ahead and do it anyway.

Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.

From an AA member's story, "Freedom from Bondage"
page 552 of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous

Forgiveness for our past behaviours

Step 4 looks at our past behaviours.  We find out things about ourselves that we have been inclined to beat ourselves up about.  We have drunk to subdue the resultant emotional disturbance we feel.

To rid ourselves of our own guilt we need only forgive others whenever we feel resentful to them. This is an ancient and miraculous process.

A Shortcut to Serenity

In Emmet Fox's analysis of The Lord's Prayer he describes the method of forgiveness.  In looking at the clause "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" he concludes that the act of praying for the others, as described above, needs only be done once for each person/resentment.  Thereafter, if that resentment resurfaces, we can skip the whole resentment/release process, bless the offender briefly, and remind ourselves that we have already freed ourselves from the issue.

For complete serenity Fox says, "We must positively and definitely extend forgiveness to everyone to whom it is possible that we can owe forgiveness, namely, to anyone who we think can have injured us in any way."

Resentment and Fear

Page 67 of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, states, "Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else." Learning the process of overcoming resentment literally saves the lives of people who are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. The process, proven to be a life-saver by these people, also enables others to live happier lives.

Page 67 of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, states that fear "was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our lives was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune that we felt we didn't deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball in rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble."

Choosing Love and Trust as an antidote to Resentment

Susan Jeffers in her book "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" recommends we "Give away thanks" to overcome resentment :

Give away thanks

Find an empty room and turn off the telephone. Put on some soothing music. Sit down in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Visualize someone who brings up a lot of anger or pain in you. Picture them in front of you. First, surround them with rays of healing white light and tell them that you wish them all good things — everything they could possibly want in their lifetime. Thank them for whatever they have given you. Keep doing this until you feel your negative emotions leaving.

To say this is not easy is to utter the biggest understatement in the world. "Wish her good things? Are you out of your mind? I want to see her suffer for what she’s done to me!"

The first time I did this exercise, I picked someone who had previously worked for me, and who had caused me a great deal of upset and pain. I had trusted him, and, to my mind, he had betrayed me. Note the victim mentality in full bloom! Obviously I was not taking responsibility for my - experience of life at that time. As I went through the exercise, I experienced an incredible series of emotions.

First, I was shocked at the anger and resentment I was holding. I found it almost impossible, even in my mind’s eye, to wish him anything good. My initial anger toward him was monumental. As I slowly released the anger, I got in touch with the pain I felt. This turned to anger at myself for allowing what had happened and for holding all my anger for so long. This turned into forgiveness of myself and of him. I was able to see both of us simply as people who had done the best we could at the time. I could then surround us both with healing white light.

This process took about an hour. When I began, I thought nothing much would happen. Wrong! I screamed, I cried, I hurt, I hated, I opened up, I forgave, I loved, I felt peace. I continued to do this exercise daily until I no longer felt anything negative about him and could freely wish him all good things.

I did this exercise for all the people in my life for whom I was holding any negativity, no matter how great or how slight. One of the people was my ex-husband. When I was able to reach the point in my visualization when I wished him only good, I phoned him and invited him to lunch. I simply said that there were some things I’d never told him and I wanted to do so now. He was pleased I called and we met for lunch.

I told him all the things that I really did appreciate about him when we were married and the qualities in him that I admire. My openness invited openness on his part, and he shared things about me that were loving as well. When I left lunch that day, I felt I had completed something that heretofore had been incomplete — and it felt wonderful.

If you carmot actually meet with people on your list, do it in your mind. Talk to them as if they were sitting in front of you and tell them what you want to say. Heal the relationship within yourself. In terms of your physical and mental health, it is just as good as if they were actually sitting before you.

We need to get rid of pain and anger before we can bring in love. When we hold negative feelings about people in our past, we carry those feelings to those in our present. Not only that, but we can make ourselves physically ill, as some of you may have already experienced. An excellent book to read on the subject of healing your body and mind is Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. She has many exercises that will help you release the anger, pain and resentment that you may be carrying around with you.

So many people don’t say thank you because they don’t realize how important their thanks may be. Remember, you count and your thanks count. Don’t let an opportunity go by to thank someone who has given you something — anything at all.

If this seems difficult for you right now, start with casual situations, such as saying to someone at work: "Thank you for that" or "I appreciate that" or "Thank you for being happy today; it’s made me happy." Thank you, thank you, thank you. Start getting those words into your cons-ciousness about everyone around you. Start thanking others instead of waiting for thanks to come to you. It is tough in the beginning, but it gets easier. Giving away thanks is like a muscle to be used. As we flex it, it gets stronger. It just takes exercise.

Thank you, Susan Jeffers, for these timeless and inspirational words.

Gratitude - an Essential Discovery

Giving away thanks is a method of flexing our "gratitude muscle". It is a necessary discovery on the well-trodden journey from suicidal despair to happiness. By flexing our gratitude muscle we become stronger and more resilient to those around us who we find challenging to our serenity.