Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Thank you all for continuing to move forward and share your experience, strength and hope as you Work The Steps. The 12 Steps ARE the program of recovery and, in my experience, the only way I can be granted a daily reprieve from compulsive eating is if I maintain my spiritual fitness by working these steps.
Practicing the principles of recovery in all our affairs may sound like a daunting task. The Big Book, however, helpfully reminds us that, “We are not saints.” To me, that is a great comfort because it means I can keep practicing and never have to be perfect!
Step eight, like step six, is another one of the “getting ready” steps. And what we are getting ready to do (in step nine, by making amends) is to really practice love for others. In order to do that, though, we must first begin to practice some love to ourselves.
Thus in step eight we are learning about the principle of self-discipline. Before coming to program, in a million years I never would have thought that self-discipline had anything to do with self-love, much less operates as a precursor to love for others.
But the more I practice the principles, the more I get it. In step eight, we make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. Importantly, the only way I can be willing to make amends to someone is if I have forgiven any harm that they may have done to me.
The OA 12 and 12 is very clear that we must forgive others before making amends to them for our part. I strongly encourage everyone to thoroughly read this step because it gives some very practical advice on how, precisely we might forgive. So many of us have heard that forgiveness is a good thing to do: but few of us know exactly how to do it. Here, the instructions in the book are clear: we can write down everything they have done to harm us to place a finite boundary around it and see that the harm, however deep, is finite and has an end, and we can pray for them to have everything we want for ourselves. This one-two punch, if pursued earnestly and honestly, will help us forgive even the greatest harms.
Now what does all of this have to do with self-discipline? Praying for those who bug me is not something I want to do. But when I do it, I feel better. Similarly, my ego LOVES a good, vague, general resentment but, when I write down exactly who did what to me – no matter how terrible and awful – I see that the harm has an end. Just like I need to have a boundary to tell me when my meal is over and I have had enough food, writing “What they did to me” has a boundary and tells me that the harm has an end, too …. IF I am willing to let it. Now letting the harm go in my mind is how I must practice self-discipline. If I keep holding it on, like a dog with an old bone, I not only harm myself (I keep my resentments alive and keep victimizing myself by replaying memories) but I also minimize my opportunity to have healthy, loving relationships and I stay in isolation where I cannot be of any use to my HP or my fellows.
For most of my life, the concept of self-discipline sounded about as fun and enticing as the prospect as wearing a hair shirt and eating “diet” food forever. I wanted no part of it! What I did not know, in my disease, is that self-discipline can actually be a practice of self-love and feel GOOD. Just like it feels good to eat moderate, nourishing meals one day at a time, it feels good to know that I am acting like a grown up, not a snotty little kid. Deep down, I DO want to act like a spoiled, snotty little kid at times. But if I act that way, it’ll be no surprise if no one wants to play with me in the sandbox. If, however, I practice self-discipline, and seek to forgive others for not being perfect (as I seek to be forgiven), they will want to play with me more and all of a sudden I am not so isolated and alone and prey to the food anymore.
Here are some questions and assignments for you this week.
- If you have not answered the questions from the previous step assignments during this step study, would you be willing to commit to practicing self-discipline and spending, say, 10 minutes each day working on them until they are done?
- Why do you think the principle of step eight is self-discipline? Does that make sense to you?
- How is forgiving others a demonstration of self-discipline?
- Why is self-love a precursor to love for others? Do you think you can love others truly without loving yourself, such as is demonstrated by abstaining one day at a time?
- Why is letting go of the harm others caused you a demonstration of self-discipline?
- Is there anyone from your 4th step inventory, or anyone else, that you have not forgiven? Would you try the one-two punch described above to forgive them and share it with us? (The Big Book suggests praying each day for two weeks for anyone we might resent – you may need more or less time). Feel free to share the harms they have done to you if that helps you but remember the self-discipline is in praying for them to have everything you want and in forgiving them ultimately.
- How can you practice self-discipline in your most challenging relationships today?
- Read step eight in the OA 12 and 12 and the AA 12 and 12.
- Once you have read those two chapters, and especially the OA 12 and 12’s step eight, share us how YOU are going to practice self-discipline and forgiveness this week?
The Twelve Steps
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