8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
I had a pretty good start on this list from the inventory back in Step 4. That’s where we look at our resentments and find our own mistakes in each case. So I already had a list of resentments along with the whos and the whys, including where I had acted selfishly, dishonestly, or for my benefit at the expense of the other person. Without going into specifics, let’s just say I had a hefty list and a lot of work to do. In nearly all of my resentments, and I’m sure it is (or will be) true of your inventory, I was at least partly at fault. But it was far from complete.
My list wasn’t lacking from thoroughness; it was lacking all those times I’d caused someone to hurt that did not involve resentment on my part—a thoughtless word spoken in anger or frustration, a forgotten birthday, or a case of insensitivity to another’s situation.
Keeping in mind that in Steps 8 and 9 we are dealing with people we have harmed, there may be people on our resentment list who have harmed us in some way while we did nothing to cause harm to them. A woman who has been raped or a person who suffered physical or sexual abuse as a child come to mind as obvious blameless victims. No amends are necessary or appropriate where we have caused no harm. Forgiveness, yes, but that is not what these two Steps are about. I’ll talk about forgiveness in a later post.
By the time I’d gotten this far into the Steps, I was already willing to do whatever it was going to take, so the willingness wasn’t a huge problem for me. I will admit, tho, that for several people on my list, I needed to keep reminding myself that they were human, too, and even if they weren’t alcoholic, they had problems, too. When I could see them as like unto myself, it made the amends process easier. As recommended in the Big Book, I could say to myself, “This is a sick person. How can I be helpful?”
And in fact, the other person can benefit from our amends as much as we do. If they have carried resentment against us, as we against them, it gives them the opportunity to also let go. That’s entirely their call, tho. My job in the process is to offer to amend the damage I’ve caused. It’s not up to me to even so much as suggest what they should or should not do from there. From the Tao Te Ching: “The wise one acts, then steps back.” (And accepts whatever the result might be.)
Next up—Step 9, where the magic happens.
Any thoughts or questions about Step 8? Please leave a comment!