Working the Program: Step 8, Part 3

Step 8:   Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 

The second half of this Step is where the path gets a bit steeper and the risks greater, but it is also the Step that can change your life.  By taking this Step, I’ve learned that the greater the risk, the greater the possibility and potential of reward.

I’ll never forget how my sponsor talked about this Step.  I remember clearly her ton of voice and the expression on her face when she said, “Jeanie, all you have to do right now is become willing to make amends!”

She must have seen the look of panic on my face, but as with every preceding Step, her intention was always for my best welfare and for my serenity and peace.  Always, there was mercy and grace in her work with me.  Never once did I feel censure, condemnation or criticism; always, my identifying my defects, doing my inventory and now, being willing to look at making amends was offered as a way to open my mind and heart to forgiveness and reconciliation.

As in every other conversation with my sponsor, she gave just enough guidance to be helpful, but not so much that I felt overwhelmed to do the work her way.  Looking back, I realize how perfectly she held a safe and firm container while, at the same time, honoring my own process.

“We need to talk about what making amends means,” she said, “and we need to talk about what it doesn’t mean.”

And then she paused.  “Today, we are going to start with “becoming willing” because I don’t want you rushing off and doing this in a way that makes you become a victim.”

* * * * *

Being willing…. 

Honestly, when it comes to making amends, there have been times in my life when being willing to be willing is the best I can do, and my sponsor assured me that my reserve or even hesitancy about making amends could be a warning to proceed with caution.

Over time, I have learned that making amends can bring about a reaction from the other person that makes my guilt worse.

I have learned that some people view both the character defect and the act of making amends as potential soft spots where they can bind you to your past, holding your weakness over your head like a black storm cloud that can rain lightning and thunder on you when you least expect it.

“You may have to explain to the person to whom you want to make amends what it is you are doing,” my sponsor told me.  “Proceed with caution.  Give up your preconceived notions of the outcome.  Do your part and your part only, and then leave the rest to God.”

Working the Steps – Step 8, Part 2

My newest book, Practicing Resurrection:  Radical Hope in Difficult Times has just been released by Smyth and Helwys Publishers.

When I began writing this series on the Twelve Steps, I had not yet even outlined the book’s chapters, but now that the book has been written and released, it is time to differentiate between this series and the new book.   I do, however, see that working the Twelve Steps is a powerful way to “practice resurrection.”  I hope you will read both.

Thank you so much for reading this series on the Twelve Steps, formerly named “Practicing Resurrection”. From now on, this series will appear as “Working the Steps”. Step Eight, Part 2 can be found below.

Working the Steps:  Step Eight, Part 2

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

If I have wounded any soul today,

If I have caused one foot to go astray,

If I have walked in my own willful way,

Dear Lord, forgive.

Working the Steps – Step 8

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

“If I have done anything to offend you…..”

“Tell me what it is that I did!”

“You know I did that only because you did what you did….”

Stop right here.

Those are not good openings for doing this Step.  In fact, if there were rules for doing this Step, these approaches break all of them, but they are common and frequent ploys for wiggling out of taking responsibility for the harm we have done to others.

The first one puts the burden on the offended party for being offended.

The second one makes the injured party do the work, setting up a line of defense in the offender.

The third approach places the blame on the person who has been harmed.