Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
The principle behind step nine is love for others. When most of us see the 12 Steps for the first time, it is step 9 (along with the inventory in step 4) that scares us. Making amends sounds like an opportunity to eat more humble pie – the one kind of pie most of us compulsive overeaters don’t like!
The steps are written in order for a reason though and are meant to be worked in order for a reason. By the time we get to this step, having thoroughly worked the previous eight steps with a sponsor, we are eager to proceed.
Now I would like to bring up the sponsor issue one more time here. It is wonderful that so many of you continue to work the steps here at WTS. The dynamic and shares of the group are powerful, inspiring and hopeful. I know that I have felt safer sharing some things on a loop that I did not yet have the courage to do with someone face-to-face. But I cannot stress enough how much healing power in unleashed by working the steps with a sponsor. If nothing else during this week, please write, call, beg, plead and cajole someone to sponsor you. Even if it is a temporary relationship, you will get FAR more love and recovery by working your steps with a human, fallible, imperfect sponsor than waiting for Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. I promise you this is true!
Why are we talking about working with a sponsor in step 9? Because what a good sponsor who has worked the 12 steps does is teach me how to have loving, respectful, tolerant and kind human relationships. In my disease, I had very, very unrealistic expectations of myself and others. Messrs. Ben and Jerry, however, were always predictable and reliable, until they, too, turned on me. Recovering from compulsive eating requires that I learn and adopt new ways of relating to myself and others. When I call a sponsor or share something painful and shameful, I am learning to not only trust another human being (something I could never do in the disease), I am also learning to trust myself and my Higher Power.
If the principle of step nine is love for others, how are we to demonstrate that then? For years, I would say that I loved certain people, friends, family, etc. But my feelings could not be translated into actions most of the time because I was so caught up in the drama of my disease. By making amends – that is, changing my behavior – I get to demonstrate the love I feel in my heart for others.
Its helpful to think about it in reverse, too: do you love people who do loving actions for you and to you (like your sponsor and OA fellows?), or do you love the ones who neglect, ignore or abuse you because they say they love you? This is a tough question to answer for many of us, to be sure. But it is worth thinking about when we bring the principle of love for others into our prayers.
One of the things my disease robbed me of was the ability to mature emotionally. I was a big baby … and still am to a large extent! In my disease, I thought only of how I could get you to love me. In recovery, I have learned through the healing power of the steps and the fellowship, that I can love others through loving actions.
For example, yesterday my boyfriend and I woke up and found there wasn’t any milk for our morning coffee. When this happens, he normally runs out to the store since I do my program writing and reading in the mornings and prefer to stay close to HP in quiet meditation before heading out into the world. Yesterday, though, I knew he was hurting and when I saw him getting dressed to go, offered to go get milk and groceries myself. I got in the car and felt a few moments of resentment, that old stinkin’ thinkin’. I made some calls to my sponsor and a fellow and left them voicemails sharing my feelings. Then I turned to gratitude, and started counting my blessings. How thankful I am to have a car, gas money, money for food, a great grocery store to shop at and a wonderful man waiting at home for me! What the heck was my problem! And by just taking those small actions, I was able to feel greater joy at being willing to express love for others. This is an amend from my old ways where I would guilt and shame people into doing things for me, always the victim, always wanting more, more, more. Through this simple shift in attitude, I was able to be of service to him and have a wonderful morning and day rather than one mired with shaming and resentment and finger-pointing.
When we amend our ways and behave differently, with love and tolerance of others as our code, our intentions and actions come into alignment. Love for others is demonstrated when I accept responsibility for harms I have done to this person and others, and become willing to make changes in my current behavior. Step nine is NOT about saying sorry and then continuing to repeat the old behavior!!! We demonstrate love when we are genuinely sorry for harms caused AND become willing to change our current behavior.
Here are some questions and assignments for you this week.
Do you have a sponsor? If so, how have you learned love of others from him/her?
If you don’t have a sponsor, which actions are you willing to take this week to get one?
Is there one thing you have learned from your relationship with your sponsor you could apply to another relationship in your life with your family, spouse, co-workers, friends, etc? (I have learned, for example, that it is MY responsibility to get my emotional needs met and that ONLY HP can meet them completely – asking one person to do so is bound to set me up for failure.)
Are your words (love for others) in alignment with your actions today? Could you share an example of one relationship in your life where you need to amend your behavior?
In which relationship do you most need to practice “love for others?” What are some simple ways you can amend your behavior? (E.g. instead of screaming and exploding in anger at my mother, I can call a fellow or sponsor and share my feelings safely, and then continue to act lovingly towards my mother)
Do you regularly say “sorry” for your behavior? Do you match that up with different actions Can you share an example with us of how you have made living amends?
Is there anything you need to share about making amends or practicing love for others?
Read step nine in the OA 12 and 12 and the AA 12 and 12
The Twelve Steps
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