Step Eight says : Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
As we begin making our list of people we have harmed and we examine our relationships, we begin to see the reality of how loneliness and isolation have been our addiction’s constant companions. This step is leading us toward forgiveness, which is such a difficult thing. There is one word, one concept, one character, that stands between our isolation and forgiveness and that one word is humility. Humility helps us see a true picture of ourselves, ordinary and flawed people who act in ways that harm others. Humility helps us move towards forgiveness prior to any conversations.
Forgiveness is a tricky word that has been used, misused, and abused in many settings. For the sake of our conversation, let’s see if we can define it more clearly. Forgiveness, in Step 8, is allowing humility to replace pride, revenge, anger, and hurt. We give up our need and our right to punish, to bring revenge, to administer justice, to force an apology, or to make them pay. Forgiveness looks like us giving up our desire to hold onto our pain, our anger, and our fear about what the other person did. We humbly see the issue as the thing standing between us and desire to repair and restore the relationship.
Now, I realize that sounds all nice as it rolls off the tongue or falls on a page, but in real life…it is not that simple. Forgiving those that have hurt us is the hardest and bravest thing we will ever do! We have to be very careful not to use these opportunities to tell others how they have wronged us. The temptation to do so is extremely high. We suddenly have this person whose actions created so much pain in us, possibly even some of the pain that we needed to anesthetize with our addiction in the first place. This is not the time, place, or purpose for those kinds of conversations. The purpose of these steps is to take responsibility for our own actions and make those things right with others.
The manipulative mind and relational skills of an addict can operate on high while making this list. We can begin to imagine how we could take responsibility for our part, but communicate it in a way that leaves no doubt as to the other persons part in the situation. Imagine with me you live in a neighborhood with the old 1950’s white picket fence. While there is a physical barrier between your yard and your neighbor’s, there is also some fluidity and freedom to be in and out of each others space. Imagine one neighbor begins to neglect their yard. They stop watering, stop mowing, and stop caring. People start throwing trash in their yard and it is a big huge mess. Your temptation is going to be to tell your neighbor to fix it or to run your sprinkler higher so it gets into their yard. In Step 8, your yard is your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors and you are responsible only to clean up what is on your side of the fence. Humility allows you to forgive the other person the mess in their yard and understand that is their mess to take care of when they are ready.
Let’s look a little closer at some of these things:
- How have I allowed isolation to keep me from loving and supportive relationships?
- Are shame and guilt active in my isolation and loneliness?
- How is anger and pain part of that cycle of behavior?
- Am I willing to forgive myself for the harm I have caused others?
- What keeps me from offering forgiveness to others?
- Who do I still feel a strong need to make apologize? Why?
- Why is it difficult for me to let others off the hook? Explain.
- Have I been trying to be responsible for others yards? How?
- What does humility look like in each of these difficult relationships?