Step Eight

Made a list of all persons we had harmed,
and became willing to make amends to them all.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

Hello again to everyone here with me on this journey in recovery. Thank you all for hanging in, working the program, sharing your experience, strength and hope with me and one another. This week we are looking at Step 8.

Principle: Brotherly Love

Definition of brotherly love: Feelings of humanity and compassion toward one's fellow humans.

This principle makes sense to me after reading through the Step 8 Chapter in the OA 12 and 12. Step 8 deals with relationships and improving the way we deal with other people. There is a strong emphasis on forgiveness, which is apparently the greatest obstacle to our willingness to make amends.

Step 8 is clearly a two-process step. First, we make a list of all persons we had harmed. Letís talk about that. The very first time I did a step 8 with a sponsor using the AA Big Book, my list was EVERYONE on my Step 4 inventory. Let me tell you, that was a LOT of people. We didnít go over the list and pick and choose. We didnít discuss degrees of harm. We just took all those people and made them my 8th Step list. I did it because I was completely desperate. I wanted Ė no NEEDED Ė recovery more than anything else in the whole world.

My second time through the steps with a sponsor, I was TERRIFIED of this step, believing that once again every single person I had a resentment against, who sparked fear in my heart, and with whom I had a sexual encounter had to go on my 8th step list and I would have to make amends to them all. Not so with this sponsor! I believe my second time through was much more balanced and realistic. Nice. This time, we went through my 4th step list, and looked at any harm I had done that was financial, physical, or seriously emotional. While certainly there were people I had bad thoughts towards, my new sponsor did not think it of value to go to them and say, ďI thought I was better than you.Ē

Also, my first time through, I made an amends to someone who had sexually abused me. I made an amends to him because he was on my 4th step list as someone I had a strong resentment against. Looking back, I did not owe that man (a relative) an amends. Many years later, he actually made an amends to me. My Higher Power saw to it to make that situation right for me. I tell my sponsees that they do NOT owe amends to people who abused them, ESPECIALLY if they were children at the time of the abuse. This is a very important point for me to make. So, in my world, abusers do NOT go on the 8th step list.

Who does go on the list? Creditors probably. Parents maybe. Children usually, because they often bear some brunt of our disease behaviors and character defects. I think the most important thing to note here is that you make this list under the advisement of your sponsor and/or spiritual advisor. This is a step we should never take alone. Our thinking is distorted when it comes to harms done to us and that we have done to others. We need prayer and guidance when making this list.

Okay, so now you have a list, on paper, of people you have harmed. It is also helpful to write the harm you have done to each person, so itís in black and white when you get to the next step. Onto the second part of this step. Look at your list. Become willing to make amends. Oh yeah, itís that easy, right? Um, did you see who is on my list? Thatís my ex-husband. He was a complete jerk to me and my kids. Willing to make amends to him? Youíve got to be kidding.

ďIf we havenít the will to do this, we ask until it comes.Ē That is right out of the Big Book. Seems to me I may not be the only person not willing to make amends immediately. (By the way, I did eventually make that amends.)

Mentioned in the Big Book and the OA 12 and 12, and what helped me to make the toughest amends, is FORGIVENESS. Another one of those things that is rarely instantaneous, and often requires a divine touch. Conversations with your sponsor or spiritual advisor(s) may help you get to the place of forgiveness. Prayers can help. I was told to pray for someone I had trouble forgiving. It was suggested that I pray for that person every day for two full weeks, and that I pray that he would receive the things I pray for myself. Well, normally for myself I pray only for knowledge of Godís will, and the power to carry it out, so thatís what I prayed for this person. I didnít pray prosperity over him, or blessings, or even great health. I prayed for him only what I prayed for myself. I have to admit that at first it made me uncomfortable and my brain kept saying other things. Two weeks in, though, it was a habit. I kept it up past the two weeks. I have no idea how and if his life changed, but something in me softened and I was able to make an amends for wrongs I had done. I still pray for him every now and again.

Another fabulous suggestion can be found in the OA 12 and 12. It has to do with writing down the harms the person has done to us, thereby seeing the limit of the harms. I did this once with a person other than my ex. I felt seething anger toward someone. I was repeatedly offended by him. I wrote down everything that he did to piss me off. It was two paragraphs. I had to sit there and laugh at myself. Seriously? Two paragraphs? Not even a full page? That gave me a lot of perspective.

So, breathe, make your list. Go over it with your sponsor. Tweak it. Add people. Take people off. Then become willing to make amends to them all. If you feel you are not willing to make amends to one or more people on the list, try the suggestions above. Keep asking for the willingness to show brotherly love to each person on your list by making amends. Donít worry about actually making them. Weíre not there quite yet.

The readings for this week are Step 8 in the OA 12 and 12, as well as Into Action in the AA Big Book, starting with the 3rd paragraph on page 76 through the last full paragraph on page 77. I suggest stopping here, as it then really starts to address the next step.

Here are some things to consider as you make the list and become willing to make amends.

Thank you again for allowing me to have this opportunity to serve. I read all the responses, and am always touched by things that are shared. Wishing you all a wonderful week in recovery.


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