Step 8 — Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
This one was a doozie. All the steps, but particularly step 8 required (and requires today) me to examine intentionally and honestly all my relationships, present and past. My friends, my enemies, my relatives. Every one.
The first thing I had to do was make the list. The second thing was to decide whether I was going to be willing (in each relationship) to make amends. I had mistreated lots of people with my words and my deeds.
I had to make two lists. One list was the folks I genuinely hurt in some way, spoke harshly too, or offended. Relationships I strained with my behavior or my words.
The second list was more challenging. I had to write a list of those folks towards whom, unbeknownst to them, I had harbored ill will, resentment, bitterness, or pent-up anger. The folks for whom I had knowingly cultivated negative feelings.
Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. Proverbs 16:6
Before I began my recovery, and arrived at step 8, I could bring to my mind a bunch of folks I had treated badly; but I didn’t much care about them. I behaved badly, or thought ill of them. Okay. So? My thoughts were my own. I could harbor a grudge if I wanted to. It was none of anyone’s business what I thought, or didn’t think of someone. And I didn’t think about them, or what I thought about them, that often.
But, now, here I was at step 8, Not only did I have to think about them, I had to write them down. I had to take pen and paper and make a list of all the people I had harmed, either by word or deed. On a legal pad. Write them down. Look at the names. Recall what I did or thought about them. The first name on my list hit me right between the eyes. My dad. Ouch! I was on his list. I know because he had done a step 9, made amends with me, months before. Now it was my turn to put him on my list.
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Luke 19:8
As I mulled over the relationships in my life I soon discovered how long this list would be. I had wounded a lot of people. Hurt them. Bruised their egos. Insulted them. I mentioned on this blog before the gargantuan arrogance I flaunted. When you think you’re better than other people you tend to talk down to the ones you think you’re better than. You tend to dismiss their opinions and play one-upmanship with them. You tend to compete with them and their thinking. My arrogance was the basis for lots of the names on my list.
Then Came The Hard Part
Becoming willing to make amends was a giant leap for me. Some of the people on my list were people who had harmed me first. Said or done bad things to me. I retaliated with spite, arrogance, anger, retribution, gossip, criticism, defamatory remarks. Some of them did not acknowledge they had done anything wrong to me, and I knew they probably never would admit to doing anything to me. Step 8 says, “It doesn’t matter. You have to become willing to take responsibility for your own sinful behavior or thoughts towards them regardless of their response.” The step says, “to them ALL.” I looked up “all” in the dictionary. It means . . . all. Each and every one.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18
I took solace in the word “became” in step 8. To me, as in several of the other steps, it meant I didn’t have to become willing to make amends to all the people on my lists all at once. With some of the folks on my list becoming willing to make amends would be easy. They were acquaintances, work colleagues, neighbors, far away relatives and friends. But some of the folks with whom I had to become willing to make amends were dear friends. I had intimate relationships with them. E.g. ex-wives, my dad and mom, my brother, my uncle, my closest friends, church friends.
Then there were the ones who had intentionally, or unintentionally, hurt me first. Some of those folks I didn’t like. Some I considered adversaries. I didn’t associate with them. I avoided being around them. But step 8 says “willing to make amends to them all.”
Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. Every A.A. has found that he can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his wake. To a degree, he has already done this when taking moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt, and in what ways. This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away. – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 77-78
I learned a valuable life lesson in my step 8 recovery. Forgiveness is for me. Not the person from whom I am asking forgiveness. Step 8 taught me that this process was for me. Not anyone else. I needed to become willing to make amends for me. Not for others. Making that list was a pathway to peace for me. As I compiled my list, and as God taught me the meaning of my willingness to make amends, I began to feel the peace and freedom that would be associated with making amends.
Today, I don’t hesitate long to be willing to make amends to those I have harmed. My awesome Holy Spirit does two things in my life now related to my wonderful step 8. First, He prompts me that I need to make an amend. I have said or done something that was not of God to another person. I get that tap on the shoulder and it becomes immediately clear to me that an amend is in order. Not to appease the person I have harmed. But to make sure there is nothing that will impede my relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing to interrupt the intimacy we have for each other.
I’ve learned that I can not have peace, I can not enjoy true serenity, I can not enjoy intimacy with God unless I am at peace with EVERYONE in my sphere of influence.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Are you harboring ill will, resentment, bitterness, hurt or anger for ANYone? Any one? If you do, you can not enjoy His intimacy and His peace that passeth all understanding. Before you can be the best you can be for God, before you can walk in obedience and the knowledge that nothing or no one stands between you and God, first go and be reconciled with your brother — every one of them.