“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”
OK…we’ve come SO far now and yet, when you think about it, there’s still so much left to do. I’m certain that we can all agree that our behaviors have hurt someone. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons you want to change them and get rid of them. No one likes to cause others pain, no one likes to hurt those they love. And yet, often, after we DO hurt them, we find it so difficult to make it right. Again, it’s those excuses and justifications that we hear. You know the ones I’m talking about…
She won’t believe I’m sorry anyways.
I’ll apologize to him later. He’s too hurt right now.
It wasn’t THAT big a deal.
I’m sure that you’ve probably got your own personal favorites. :-)
“We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self- appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory…”
-A.A. Big Book
This is where Step 8 comes into play. We’ve now done the personal and emotional ground work to move on to working outside of ourselves. Now we start to make a difference in the lives of those we care about. Notice something here though…This step isn’t about running right out and apologizing to everyone. This isn’t an apology step. This is a step about making amends.
Webster defines amends as: compensation for a loss or injury
So what kinds of compensation do you have to make? Well, see that’s where you have to rely on your heart and the new willingness that you’ve gained going through the prior 7 steps. In most cases, it probably won’t be enough to just say, I’m sorry. Sometimes, you may just have to listen to what the hurt has done to that person’s emotions. Sometimes, you may have to do more.
I want you to notice something else about this step. “If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it comes”. This is not a step that’s forced. You KNOW that you need to make amends, but sometimes it might take a while to get to the point where you CAN make amends. And remember…never, EVER; put yourself in harm’s way in trying to make amends.
Sometimes, when you try to make amends, the other person simply won’t accept it. That’s OK. You are doing your part in this process. You can’t force them to accept your amends; you can’t demand that they forgive you. That is THEIR choice and all you need do is try and then accept what they choose for their life.
“The Eighth Step is not easy; it demands a new kind of honesty about our relations with other people. The Eighth Step starts the procedure of forgiving others and possibly being forgiven by them, forgiving ourselves, and learning how to live in the world. By the time we reach this step, we have become ready to understand rather than to be understood. We can live and let live easier when we know the areas in which we owe amends. It seems hard now, but once we have done it, we will wonder why we did not do it long ago.”
- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text
We all owe someone an apology. That’s just the way life goes. Usually it takes a strong and courageous person to actually make that apology and mean it, with sincerity. You are ready now to do just that. Like NA says, understand, listen and feel what they are telling you. Then you’ll be ready to give all your heart into making things right.