Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Nine Essay
This is in my opinion one of the most surprising of the 12 steps, since often we approach it with dread and apprehension. The thought of going to people and making amends for our wrong doings often brings with it fear of reprisal, fear of rejection or fear of not being able to continue with the 12 steps because we cannot envisage ourselves getting over this one.
Yet many who have overcome their fears and taken this step will hail its rewarding release from the burdens of their past misconceptions, mistakes or misdemeanours.
It is advisable to use the willingness and the energy that we get from completing step eight, to precede quickly to step 9, "without passing Go or collecting $200!" We are however advised to exercise common sense and the wording of the step warns us about doing more harm than good. Seeking counsel with our sponsors is at this point prudent.
Before making amends we need to be clear about the reasons why we are being asked to take this step. There are a possible three things that may come of taking this step:
1. Making amends can free us from the guilt, anger and shame, the legacies of our past.
2. Making amends can build bridges where only ruins presently exist.
3. Making amends creates a clean slate upon which to build our recovery.
We must, however, be aware that we cannot have any expectations. The people we make amends to are not obliged to offer forgiveness; they have every right to hold grudges against us for the rest of their lives. They owe us nothing in return for our openness, honesty and attempts at making restitution.
We shouldn't expect anything to come from these people, the rewards emerge through the spiritual peace we find from within ourselves and the serenity proffered through God.
When making amends we should keep in mind the purpose of the exercise. We should avoid mentioning the events, which provoked our actions or reactions, we should avoid hurting people all over again, and we should circumnavigate reconstructions, rehashing or revisiting the painful moments in our history. The reason we are making amends is to bring us release from our history and to make a new start.
We need to exercise honesty and compassion when considering those who we need to make amends to; we must at all costs avoid causing pain to anyone. Some of those on our lists may have died or may not be found. This does not, however, mean we get away with our transgressions. It merely means that we need to make amends in another way, perhaps by writing a letter, speaking with our sponsor or in a face-to-face meeting.
Making amends is a one-sided process. The people we seek to make amends with may not reciprocate by forgiving us. However at the end of the day, we have attempted to do the next right thing, and as a consequence we will experience the freeing and healing qualities of this step.