Amends — Steps 8 & 9

by Bill

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

Making a list of all the persons we have harmed means just that. It does not mean a list of only the people we would like to appease. It does not mean a list of only the people who have not hurt us. We don’t pick and choose our amends. We just make the list and do the work.

We need to understand that we should not have expectations about this process. Some people will not react as we would wish. I have had people whom I had harmed tremendously pooh-pooh it, as though my having thoroughly screwed up their lives was nothing, and tell me that they are just happy that I’m “better” and doing OK. I have at least one other, injured much less, who won’t do more than speak civilly to me after nearly 20 years.

That is their choice. When it comes to the attempt, however, it essential for me to know that I tried. The process is about straightening out my life, not theirs.

As to Step 9, I need to remember that “except when to do so would injure them or others” includes me. I may not use that clause as an excuse for sloughing off my responsibilities to myself, but neither should I be ridiculous about it. Admitting things that might land me in jail, for example, would hardly be conducive to my continued sobriety. (Think you can’t get drunk in jail? Wrong.)

A proper amends involves the three elements of the old Talmudic reparations: Responsibility, Regret, and Repair.

I must admit and accept responsibility for what I did. I may not say, “I’m sorry but…” or make excuses. The purpose of making amends is not to justify, or to create a balance, it is to right a wrong and repair a relationship. I must admit, unequivocally, that I did it, and that I accept responsibility for having done it.

I must then look the other person in the eye and say, “I’m sorry,” and mean it, not “I’m sorry, but…” and so forth.

Finally, I must inquire what I can do to try to right the wrong, and make an genuine effort to do the next right thing, whatever it may be. Furthermore, I must carry through with it.

These efforts may lead to a reconciliation, or to rejection. That doesn’t matter. I am completing this step for my peace of mind and the cleansing of my spirit, not for the other person. If I do these things with the right intent and a good heart, I have done my part. How the other party deals with it up to them; it is none of my business.

Resentment is a poison that we drink ourselves; then we suffer while we wait for the other person to die.

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