A Study of Step 10 of the 12-Step Program

Taking personal inventory and promptly admitting wrong

Young women forgiving each other with a hug

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Step 10: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

Whether you're working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)Narcotics Anonymous (NA)Al-Anon, or any other program, step 10 may be one of the least popular of all the 12 steps. Why? It’s simply no fun to be wrong and then have to admit it.

But without this step, progress toward recovery can not only cease, it can actually lose ground. Here we talk about some of the benefits of step 10, along with ways you can incorporate it into your daily life.

12 Steps Defined

According to Alcoholic Anonymous, the 12 steps are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What Is Step 10?

In step 10, personal inventory refers to emotional disturbances that can trigger a person to return to misusing drugs or alcohol. Watching for these disturbances on a daily basis—and taking a daily inventory—is an important part of recovery.

Step 10 helps to keep the spiritual house clean. All humans and are bound to make mistakes and errors. Owning up to those wrongs quickly settles the issue. Rather than weighing on the conscience or building up to produce greater consequence, the mistake is corrected promptly and the problem nipped in the bud.

Nobody likes to admit to being wrong, but it is absolutely necessary to maintain spiritual progress in recovery.

Benefits of Step 10

Step 10 is another process that seems on the surface to be difficult to face, but in actuality, it is as much a benefit to the one admitting the wrong as it is to the person who was wronged.

By promptly facing mistakes and taking responsibility for them, it prevents situations from festering into resentments and anger that can become real problems.

For example, suppose you say something insensitive or crude and as soon as it pops out of your mouth, you realize it was not the right thing to say to that person. As step 10 suggests, you apologize immediately and tell the person that you were wrong and you should never have said it.

Then, you can walk away knowing you have done your part to make it right. If the other person wants to hold on to it and remain angry about it, it is their problem, not yours.

The steps are to help you make progress. In the end, you apologized for your spiritual benefit, more than for their benefit.

Tips and Strategies

Here some practical ways to apply step 10 to daily life:

  • Stop and think before you speak. This can help prevent you from saying something harmful and help you become more conscious of other's feelings.
  • Admit when you're wrong. The act of quickly trying to right a wrong can keep your mental house clean and prevent ego from getting in the way of step 10.
  • Perform an act of unexpected kindness. If you can't "fix" the hurt directly to the person, try to perform an unexpected act of kindness to another.
  • Take a daily inventory. Set aside time each day to meditate and reflect on your day—both the good and bad parts. Ask yourself: Were you dishonest or resentful? Did you say or do anything that would warrant an apology? What steps can you take to do better tomorrow?

A Word From Verywell

Like every part of a 12-step program, step 10 takes commitment as you work daily to take personal inventory, admit when you're wrong, and be your best self along the journey toward lasting recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. 77th printing. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services; 2012.