The important thing, in my opinion, about step 8, is that we donít have to do anything but make a list. We donít have to act on that list, that is step 9. With that in mind, we can feel free to put names on that list that we might not feel even near dealing with. In fact, most people in program do their list in three columns; column 1: people I feel I could make amends to right away, column 2: people I think I might be able to deal with later, and column 3: people I donít think I can ever deal with. Itís OK to have a never list. Most of us do. And most of us, if we are growing and changing in recovery, do eventually become willing to deal with these people.
Itís important when thinking of the people who belong on this list, to isolate our own personal objective of letting go of the past and getting on with our lives. This list isnít about people who we want to forgive us. Itís about us forgiving ourselves through responsible accountability, and intentions of not repeating the hurtful behavior. I have had to be careful not to put people on the list that I wanted to like me, or where my motive was to get them back into my life. In most cases, the people on my 8th step list were people who I had become painfully aware were maligned, or hurt by my behavior, the kind of behavior I could only display when completely numb and blind to the impact my actions had on others. Usually self-centered behavior, or defensive behavior, or dishonest behavior while actively in my addiction.
I did do my list based on some of the resentments from my 4th step inventory, which is the case for many of us. However, there might be other people weíd prefer not to run into, or people who bring up strong feelings of shame or anger, or other painful emotions. These people can go on the list too. Again Ė classifying them as now, later, or never. It is not important that you are clear what you would say when it comes time to make an amend. That is, again, the ninth step Ė and you will surely need the help of another recovering person with experience in these matters when you get to it. All that is required for the 8th step list is that your gut tells you youíd like to resolve a very uncomfortable feeling when you reflect about your interactions with someone, usually a resentment, or shame, or hurt.
Now when you get to the 9th step, your sponsor, or whomever may be helping you, might decide that some of these names donít require an amend. But for now, in our 8th step action, we had best be as thorough as possible with names of people we suspect we have harmed through our behavior in the past. It is important not to worry about being ready to make amends. It could take weeks, months, even years to become ready. The important thing is that your list is made, so when God inspires you to take an amend action, you can start checking off the names of the list you have completed.
One last word on readiness. The willingness that is talked about in the second half of the 8th step, occurs when we have finally come to the place of compassion for how others have been affected by our past behavior. Forgiveness of others helps us to become ready. We can pray for help with this, until we get to the point that our desire to clean our side of the street becomes way stronger than our desire to blame others. You will know when you get there. I promise you. And I suggest you not make a move until that feeling is clear in your heart.
Questions for reflection:
If it is true that we can owe and amend, but not be nearly ready for it, can you share about a situation that poses this conflict for you right now?
What is your understanding about the benefit of sorting out resentments where we have not only hurt others, but have been hurt ourselves?
Can you share about a person that has changed, in your heart, from someone who you disliked, and blamed, to someone you would like to make an amend to?
It is suggested that we put ourselves at the top of our 8th step list. How do you interpret that suggestion? Why might that be meaningful to your recovery?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps