Step Eight

Made a list of all persons we had harmed,
and became willing to make amends to them all.

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Step Eight Essay

Now we go back to step four, when we made a list of our character defects. We came to know what our defects were primarily by noting the effect of our deeds upon others. Mostly we note that we alienated people or hurt them in some way. Our resentments boiled over at others who very often had done no more than to be in the way at the time. We perhaps took things that weren't ours, stole things, and rationalized what we had done because it all went to feed our habit. This is a question that we may not finish in one round. In time to come we may well remember other people than those we may think of at present.

This automatically sends up a caution flag for all perfectionists -- do what you can do reasonably now, and come back to the rest later. You have a lifetime ahead of you. This is not to give license to procrastinate, either. Something significant needs to happen.

This Step has two parts. The first is the making of the list. That is the easier part. I can think of people I have harmed -- I don't like to, but I can. And I can make a list. I note that the Step doesn't deal with whether they have harmed me in some way, or retaliated in some way. They are responsible for their actions, and I am responsible for mine. Sometimes making actual amends may entail further considerations, but that is for Step Nine. Right now, the first thing is to make the list, and to make it as thoroughly as I can without being perfectionistic.

The other part of the Step uses language we have heard before. There seems to be a good bit in the Steps about will and willingness. I suspect that fear is our greatest enemy here. Some amends seem to possibly have large price tags attached, at least potentially, and that can be frightening. Some amends, we fear, might drive away people whom we love, and who have loved us. Some amends could cost us our reputations or even our jobs. These things tighten the sphincter of the soul. When we get there, I will tell you of an amends which I delayed for a number of months because I was afraid.

So becoming willing in the face of fear is no easy job. But willingness is essential to getting the actual job done. We shall have to work ourselves around to that point. In the meantime, we make the list. It is now our "prayer list." We are asking for the willingness to make our amends. Step Three keeps reappearing. And there was Step Six, when being ready to have our defects removed directly implied being willing.

As I sit here in my "loft," where my computer is, I have a magnificent vista. The horizon which I behold is one of ocean, bay, river, beach, and National Park. A few miles across the bay, if I look, is one of the world's major cities. This view is one of my soul feeding things. I like to think that this is the gift of my old age from my Higher Power. This is probably the last house we will own, before they take us away. But my Higher Power has a view of life and reality that is more complete than mine -- by definition! I hope that the horizon that I have here is shared by my Higher Power, and that we will enjoy many years here.

And so I also hope that as I make my list, I can say to my Higher Power that I want the vision which HP has to be the one I can get to. I want to merge my horizon into that of HP. I don't really have to overcome my fears so much as to open my eyes. The vista is already there, if I will. There is a space where I can allow my fears to calm, be centered, and know that God already sees beyond this place, and will lead me on through my amends. If I want to see that space, all I have to do is to ask to, just as I once asked God to remove my craving for food, and found that God would do so, one day at a time for the rest of my life, if I worked the program. So also now, the same HP who did that miracle is here to do another. And I don't have to do it by myself at all. I just have to get willing, to open my eyes to what HP is seeing for me.

I wish I could tell you it was that simple the first time. It wasn't. But it got better, and it happened, and now it is easier than before. We are shooting for progress, aren't we? To have progress, we have to begin.



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