I'd like to start this share with my understanding of shame and guilt. I am ashamed when I think of some decisions I have made. I feel ashamed of the actions of an alcoholic father and of the house I grew up in. This is a deep feeling that I am not good enough -- that's shame to me.
Guilt is a valuable thing. It's a feeling we get when we are doing something that is against our own value system. Sometimes it's the thing that keeps us honest.
Much of my 4th Step involved shame. My reasons for not wanting to do it were that I was afraid everything was wrong with me. After working it, I found that I was not a shameful being, but a human -- one who makes mistakes and is equal with others.
I think that the 8th Step is about guilt. What actions have I taken in the past that went against my value system. Whom did I harm with my laziness, compulsions, dishonesty, bad temper?
This was a very scary step to me -- well actually in my usual habit, I was looking ahead to the 9th Step, so avoiding the 8th.
We can use our 4th Step Inventory to see many of the people who should be on our list. I've been to a meeting where they just handed out a paper and pen and said "make the list". It's something most of us already know --especially doing it the first time--so making the list itself should not take long. I also believe that we need to have our own names on the list. We have hurt ourselves probably more than anyone else.
But there's another part of this step. We need to become willing to make amends. How do we become willing? The use of our sponsors is invaluable in this task.
The Big Book says we should not make amends that will damage other people. But that doesn't mean those people shouldn't be on our list. My opinion is that we talk about each person on the list with our sponsors and other OAs. We decide with their help which ones we really owe amends, we decide if any would hurt someone else and then we decide how to make these amends.
And then we pray for willingness. In a couple of cases, my HP kept putting the guilt in my mind so strongly that only taking care of it would erase it from my mind.
I have a couple of 8th Step stories. The first was a man that I had a relationship with many years previously. I had not thought of him for years and then within a couple of days, memories of him came to me at three different times. Finally I said to my HP "what's this about? Why am I thinking of him?" As soon as I said it, I realized that he needed to go on my 8th Step list. So I made a list of the things I had done that caused me guilt and became willing to make amends. I have no idea where he is -- a reasonable search didn't turn him up. So for today, the end of this story is that I am ready to make amends, but can't unless he comes into my life again.
Another was a business dealing I had with a woman who became very angry with me. I drove by the road to her business several times a week and each time got that feeling in my gut -- something is wrong here. One day there was a detour and I had to go directly past her building, so I said to my HP. OK, I will put her on the list. On closer examination, I found that although we had disagreed, I really did not do anything for which I needed to make amends, and from that point on, I was able to drive past without feeling anxious. It took the willingness to put her on the list and examine it to take away the bad feelings.
There was one time I was dishonest with a business about something I returned. I lied about the way it had been damaged. Every time I used the product, I felt guilt until I had to put it on my list. That one I DID have to make amends for.
Upon self-searching I also found that there was something on my conscience from the time I was a child. I had broken a window in a church near me and not paid for it. Direct amends were also in order for that one.
I like what the AA 12 x 12 ends with:
This step . . is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and God.
STEP EIGHT ~ QUESTIONS
1. Have you felt shame about things in your past?
2. Do you feel guilt about things in your past? Do you see a difference
bwteen shame and guilt?
3. Is there something keeping you from making the list of people you have harmed? What is it?
4. Can you separate making the list and getting ready from the 9th Step?
5. Can you see the benefits to yourself from doing these two steps?
6. How have you worked on becoming ready to make the amends?
7. Is your sponsor involved in your 8th Step work? How?
8. Do you need to split your 8th Step list into categories?
Those to whom I could make amends right now
Those to whom I think I could make amends in the future
Those to whom I can't see that I will ever be able to make amends
9. If you've made this list before, has anyone moved from one level to
10. Do you have anything additional to share on the 8th Step?