Personal development courses, religious enrichment programs and religiously based recovery programs call for members to perform a moral inventory. In an alcoholics anonymous program, a moral inventory means a list of personality defects, defects in character, violations of moral principles, maladjustments and dysfunctional behavior. While the specific steps to perform a moral inventory vary from program to program, moral inventory programs ask for persons to recognize character flaws, dishonesty, fear, fault, selfishness, self-centered ideals, wrong vs. right and consideration for others.
Start a hand written journal or get several sheets of paper to begin a moral inventory.
Describe both your general personality and recent mistakes you made. Answer questions about how you feel according to moral situations, like theft, violence in movies, materialism or death. Also write about things you consider to be personal accomplishments. Use this time to review honestly who you are today.
Create a list of both your personal strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include personality traits, not skill sets. The personal weaknesses are temptations or failings, not specific things someone does wrong. "Recovery--The Sacred Art" by Rami Shapiro says "a searching moral inventory demands that we identify our vices with the same accuracy and objectivity we bring to any other inventory."
List those whom you feel you wronged and how you hurt them. When you make amends later, this section shows how you recognized your immoral or improper behavior.
Identify at least one friend or buddy to review the moral inventory with once a first draft is done. Review with someone who you trust with personal information and who gives an honest opinion. Ask this person for feedback or any additions that you missed.
Turning an Inventory into an Action Plan
Describe on paper a mental image of how you want to live your life. Talk about short term and long term scenarios. For example, write about where you want to be in 90 days, including how you feel, where you work, where you live and who you are with. If struggling with addiction, include how it feels to be sober.
List solutions for your personal weakness or mistakes. For those struggling with addiction, include attending drug and alcohol treatment programs. For those who are impulsive with money, attend financial counseling classes to help regain financial control. Counseling or choosing to avoid temptation with the help of buddies, friends or a support network also brings you closer to change.
List solutions for how to make amends to those you wronged in the past. For example, if you borrowed money for something related to your addiction, repay with money or labor. For someone who stole, admit the deed and return the item or pay for it.
Update the moral inventory once you begin making changes. Keep track of all the actions in the journal until you feel satisfied with your life.
- When making amends, an apology may be enough. This varies from person to person.
- Moral inventories also include listing moral influences in your life, both good and bad. "Optimize Your Life!" by Bernhoff A. Dahl says "define the role you/they play and to rank these people as to their impact on your life, past or present." However, this should not be used to lay blame for actions in one's own life.
- Do not seek to make amends for criminal actions without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.
- "Life's Healing Choices" by John Baker recommends "focus on changing one defect at a time. Otherwise, you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, and you won't be able to change anything at all."
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