Image courtesy of artur84/

People in 12 step recovery groups are always talking about “taking inventory.” You’d think they were all obsessive-compulsive store owners. Taking inventory usually means counting what stock you have on hand in a business so you can determine what you have in your store.  Used in that sense, then, taking inventory would mean consciously noting all goods in your store–not necessarily assigning them to a “good” or “bad”  category. However, this type of inventory gives the store owner information he can study to determine what is selling and what isn’t—-what’s working and what’s not working.

Twelve-steppers have traditionally focused their practice of “taking inventory” on thoroughly examining their own lives ——how they’ve lived them and how they are living them. This is done in order to recognize what has been and is problematic for the addicted person so that steps can be taken to begin to change problematic behaviors into positive “solution-focused” behaviors with the help of a Higher Power and the fellowship of other recovering people. Sometimes, unfortunately, there is very little attention given to positive personal assets (the things that have been beneficial for the person and others) during such an inventory taking process.

One thing you often hear around recovery tables is the term “don’t take my inventory.”  This means that each person is to focus on his or her own inventory and change themselves rather than on judging another person and trying to change that person’s recovery. Used this way,  it  simply means “mind your own business.”

Similarly, a variety of religions have also emphasized the importance of not judging others. Sadly, though, we often automatically encounter something or someone and automatically judge a person, place, thing or idea as “right” or “wrong” based on our own preferences. This kind of automatic “judging” often keep us from really seeing the truth present in the situation.  Rohr (2009, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See)  cautions his readers to try to avoid having these “knee-jerk” reactions and to instead look at something with a degree of acceptance so that you can begin to see what is “true” rather than what is expected according to your own per-conceived opinions.  He suggests that we often do not love something or someone because we are actually loving our “idea of it.” (p. 50) Used in this sense, taking inventory can be something we automatically do with anyone or anything we encounter that prevents us from truly experiencing reality.

Rohr goes on to explain that we need to be practical and say no to some things in order to survive—-but that if we  learn to first encounter something with an open, accepting “yes-flavored” mind we can see more of its truth.  He emphasizes that after we are able to do this,  we will still  be able to say “no” when  we need to protect ourselves. If we can learn to experience reality with this type of open non-judgmental mind, we will avoid  the automatic type of “yes-no thinking ”  that can distort our view of reality.

Therefore, from Rohr’s perspective, “don’t take my inventory” means to not judge,  to be aware, to notice, to  listen,  and to experience so you can be fully present in the moment rather than trapped in what may be a biased opinion.

What do you think about this inventory business? What part does it play in your life and/or in your recovery? Please comment. May God bless and keep you.