The important thing to know about step 8 is that it doesn't ask me to take any action but write down names and information on a piece of paper. The spiritual principal of restitution is a challenging one for addicts who’ve lived a good part of their lives mired in self righteous indignation, and our step program recognizes that we need to grow into it with baby steps.
With the mentality I had when I first came into the 12 step rooms, the idea of being sorry to anyone for anything was completely foreign. But the 12 steps are experiential, insofar as each step prepares us for the next step. By the time we are through with the 4th and 5th step we have hopefully acquired some insight and acceptance into our own ability to create conflict. Through steps 6 and 7 we develop a desire to proceed differently in those areas that caused problems in the past. The contrast between our old self and our new self becomes so striking, that we have more of an open mind to admitting to a need to set some things right.
So in writing our 8thth step list, all we do is admit that people were affected by us, and how. With the help of a program fellow, or a sponsor, we can get completely clear on what our part was in the conflict. Then we wait, we pray for the willingness to move forward in our program.
Sometimes we need to find forgiveness in our hearts for some of the people who have equally harmed us. The program reminds us that though the pain of past hurts can loom large, it is our own harmful behavior that we need to focus on. That being said, it can take a while for the 8th step to enter our heart and work it’s transforming magic. In my own experience, I had held my rough list for about 2 and a half years after I completed my fourth step. It took time for me to see time and again what I was capable of doing with people that continually didn’t work out for me. Eventually I decided to ask a program friend over for dinner to look at my eighth step list with me. I went over each situation with her, and at the end of it I asked her “do you think I’m ready to do amends?”. Her response was “Nancy, you are so ready it’s not funny”. And so I proceeded.
You can’t rush the organic readiness to become willing to made amends. Untimely amends often end in a “splat”. So I emphasize that step eight is only the making of the list, and the owning of the defective behavior that your part was. And forgiving, in some cases, the hurtful behavior of others.
Questions for reflection:
What does step eight ask me to do, thoroughly?
What are some things I may have to do to become willing to make amends?
What are the feelings that come up when I think of some situations that I am clearly not ready to deal with?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps