The 12 stepsí basic purpose is to take people who are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes and mold and shape them into men and women with humility, integrity and purpose. It ainít easy because the process (again with that word) involves having our egos deflated and arrogant defiance crushed so that we can be open to becoming the grown ups that God wants us to become. The process began with Step 1, when we finally admitted that food had us on the ropes. By the time we get to Step 8, however, we have already begun to develop a relationship with a Power greater than ourselves, a Being that we can trust unconditionally and count on for support, strength, discipline and a renewed perspective. And itís a good thing we have that relationship because Step 8 is going to be the start of making things right with those whom we have harmed over the years. Like I said, it ainít easy.
Making the list isnít hard; all we need to do is look at our Step 4 inventory. We write out people from our Step 4 inventory and list the harm we committed. Thatís pretty simple.
One challenge, however, is that we may not have harmed all of them. I think itís worth exploring the subject of *harm* at this point because we may not have "harmed" everyone on our Step 4 list.
If I held a grudge against someone ≠ but didnít do anything with that grudge, I personally donít believe we have harmed that person; I think we harmed ourselves by allowing resentment to poison our minds. On the other hand, if I held a grudge against someone and actively did something to that person ≠ such as gossiping about him/her or behaving poorly to that person ≠ then I harmed him/her. Thinking isnít harming ≠ acting out *is.*
Running your list past your sponsor is crucial to the process because a sponsor can help sort out the guilt from the shame. My sponsor has been able to guide me with objectivity ≠ yes, thatís a harm or no, thatís not. This has been extremely valuable to me because of my tendency to go overboard in the "beating myself up" category, taking responsibility and ownership for every little thing.
The work of becoming willing to make amends comes next.
Before we look at the willingness part, itís worth looking at the definition of "amends" here.
An amend is not an apology, although apologies may be involved. To amend something is to add to or change it; for instance, the US Constitution gets changed via amendments. To make an amend is to change our behavior; itís all about repentance. To make amends in OA is a 4-part process: acknowledge that we messed up, make the decision to do something different the next time weíre in a similar situation, apologize to the person we harmed, and finally to actually do the different thing the next time weíre in a similar situation. For example, letís say I gossiped about someone. The amend might be to (a) become aware of the gossiping as something wrong (that happened in Steps 4 and 5); (b) make a decision that the next time Iím tempted, Iíll keep my mouth shut; (c) go to the person I gossiped about and apologize; and (d) the next time Iím tempted, I keep my mouth shut.
Back to the willingness part.
It wasnít easy to acknowledge that we did things wrong, that maybe our behavior caused people to retaliate (meaning that we put ourselves in situations [because of our character flaws] that caused others to react). I didnít much care for the idea that I had some responsibility for the situation with two of my teachers that had led me to hold grudges for about 20 years. I didnít like the idea that my arrogance, immaturity, fear, self-centered attitudes and general teenage obnoxiousness had led me to behave hideously to one of the teachers and generally despise the other one.
And now I had to become willing to actually go to those people and Ďfess up? Surely you jest (no, and donít call me Shirley - sorry, couldnít resist). Not a chance.
But my sponsor said I really needed to do this stuff because I was forever going to keep stepping in garbage until I cleaned off my side of the street. If I didnít do the right thing, I was going to go back into the food because the shame and poison of the grudges was going to become just too much for me to handle. The OA literature repeatedly emphasized that if I was going to stay abstinent, I needed to make things right. It didnít matter that the people I had harmed possibly didnít remember me. It didnít matter that they had gone on with their lives - in fact the trouble was that I hadnít gone on with *my* life; I had spent my life obsessing about these people and living in guilt and shame over my behavior.
My sponsor acknowledged that Step 9 (where we actually make the amends) wasnít going to be easy, but she kept telling me that with my Higher Power at my side, the only way to go was going to be up with nothing but freedom from guilt and shame at the end of it all. My sponsor also kept reminding me that Step 8 was NOT Step 9 ≠ that I didnít have to go to my harm-ees until Step *9.* She kept gently reminding me that I was only at Step 8 J.
I took a deep breath and prayed to my Higher Power until I got the willingness to give up the pretense. If there was someone to whom I was unwilling to make amends, I prayed for that person and for the willingness. Progress ≠ not perfection, right?
STEP EIGHT - QUESTIONS
1. How was your sponsor able to help you whittle down your list of "all persons (you) had harmed" from something that looked like the Manhattan telephone book to the little black address book?
2. When you look at your list of people you harmed, are there people there to whom you really donít need to make an amend ≠ are there people you didnít really harm in any way?
3. Explain how this might be possible.
4. If we donít make amends, we might go back into the food. Can you explain why this is so?
5. What do you think of my definition of making amends? Do you have a different definition that you could share with the group?
6. What things might prevent you from becoming willing to make amends?
7. What does it/did it feel like to finally become willing to make amends to all the people you harmed?
8. If you have worked Step 8 before, please share your experience. If not, what do you hope to gain from working Step 8?