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Old 08-06-2013, 08:42 AM   #1
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Default Step Eight

About Step 8

"Making a list of all persons we have harmed is not a pleasant task; it requires considerable effort and soul-searching. It may conjure up memories of events of which we are now ashamed. Often it will trigger insights into ourselves and our past behaviors that may not have come to light in the moral inventory of Step Four. Yet just as we proceeded at the fourth step with a fearless search into the depths of our hearts, so in Step Eight we continue our courageous journey of discovery." [Martin M. Davis, The Gospel and the Twelve Steps, RPI Publications Inc., 1993]

"It had been embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted these things to God, to ourselves, and to another human being. But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the people concerned now overwhelmed us, especially when we remembered in what poor favor we stood with most of them. There were cases, too, where we had damaged others who were still happily unaware of being hurt. Why, we cried, shouldn't bygones be bygones? Why do we have to think of these people at all? These were some of the ways in which fear conspired with pride to hinder our making a list of all the people we had harmed." [Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, A.A. World Services, 1952]

"In Steps Eight and Nine we learn that the way out of the pain of separation is through that pain, not around it. Instead of justifying ourselves, we own our hurtful behavior specifically. Instead of burying what we find, we go to the person we have offended, confess the behavior, and make amends. For those of us who have always hated to be wrong and have been terribly afraid of rejection, this is a very frightening prospect. When I had been in the program long enough to be at Step Eight I had heard many people talk about the serenity and restored relationships that came from doing Steps Eight and Nine, and I was at least ready to do Step Eight. I was desperately afraid of Step Nine, but my sponsor reminded me that I only had to do one step at a time; I could wait until I was ready - even if it took years. So I began Step Eight." [J. Keith Miller, A Hunger for Healing, Harper, 1991]

Step 8: Related Biblical Themes
There is a shift in focus that begins at Step Eight. In Step Four we made a moral inventory that focused on our actions. Step Eight will enrich and expand on that inventory but the focus is now not on moral failures but on persons. The focus has shifted to our relationships. The confession of Step Five, the preparation of Step Six and the prayer of Step Seven have all helped us to experience healing in our relationship with God. We now seek to deepen that healing by beginning to take responsibility for the ways in which we have harmed others.

* Made a list. Experience has shown that we are capable of coming up with many reasons for not making a list of people we have harmed. It may seem to defy common sense - the kind of common sense reflected in slogans like 'let bygones be bygones.' It may feel like we are making a big deal out of something that everyone else has probably already forgotten. The ways in which other people have harmed us are likely to compete for our attention and distract us from examining the ways in which we have harmed others. There may be theological forms of resistance such as "I've only sinned against God and it's only God's forgiveness I need." [See Matt 5:23 for Jesus' attitude towards this kind of spiritualization).

Because we experience so much resistance to this task, it is important to remember that the purpose of making a list in Step Eight is not to generate some generalized kind of 'feeling sorry' for what we have done. The goal is not any kind of psychological state at all. The concreteness of list making forces us to be specific. Exactly who? And exactly when? This specificity protects us from two common problems: it protects us from the grandiosity of thinking we have not harmed anyone but ourselves and it also protects us from the grandiosity of thinking we are responsible for all the harm ever done to anyone. In the process of making a list we develop some sense of perspective and balance about the things for which we are responsible.

* Persons we had harmed Identifying harm is an important part of this step. The purpose of this step is not to identify people who don't like us and to try to get these people to change their thoughts and feelings about us. What other people think about us is none of our business. The focus on harm here is intended to protect us from using this step as a way to control how other people think about us. Step Eight is not for other people nor does it encourage us to try to change other people. We have no control over other people and how they will respond to us. We are making a list of people we have harmed and becoming willing to make amends because of the spiritual and psychological benefit to us in doing so.

* Became willing to make amends. What does it mean to become willing to do something? It doesn't mean we necessarily know how to do it. It doesn't mean we necessarily want to do it. It doesn't necessarily mean it will be any fun. But, in spite of our resistance, our fears, our rationalizations, we can still be willing. This is one of the places in the Twelve Step recovery process were we learn that our 'wills' still have an important role to play. We had to give up on 'willpower' in Step One. But in this Step we will learn to exercise our wills in a new way.

* All. It is not unusual to find one person on our list of people who we have harmed that we just can't imagine being willing to make amends to. Usually this person is someone who has hurt us a great deal and it seems grossly unfair for us to have to become willing to make amends for the small harm we caused this person. The comprehensiveness of the word 'all' forces this issue. It is critically important to remember that taking responsibility for the harm we have done does not justify the harm which others have done. Jesus' teaching on the "mote in my brother's eye" seeming more important than the "beam in my own eye" is pertinent here[Matt 7:3-4]. Jesus was not saying that you should ignore the ways in which you have been hurt by others. He was not saying that your sins are always bigger than those of other people. But he was making the same point that we find in Step Eight: the only sins you can productively work on and make amends for are your own. It is in our own best interests to become willing to make amends to all the people we have harmed. We will see in Step Nine that it may not always be prudent to actually make amends to them but it is absolutely critical to our spiritual growth to become willing to make amends to all.
"No matter what you have done up to this moment, you get 24 brand-new hours to spend every single day." --Brian Tracy
AA gives us an opportunity to recreate ourselves, with God's help, one day at a time. --Rufus K.
When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. --Franklin D. Roosevelt
We stay sober and clean together - one day at a time!
God says that each of us is worth loving.
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