Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had wronged and became willing to make amends to them all.
Living life in the world it is pretty much a certainty that at some point we will hurt someone. Whether it’s mentally, emotionally or even physically; whether we were intentionally malicious or carelessly inconsiderate; it is inevitable that we will hurt one another. This is the sad reality of what the Buddha referred to as “Samsara”– the material world of pain and suffering. With the exception of the moments of actual physical pain we experience, the majority of the pain we feel is caused by our attachments and our beliefs. Likewise, much of the pain we cause others is when we offend the attachments and beliefs of others.
However, while we cannot “make” anyone feel a particular emotion and there are typically “wrongs” on both sides of any conflict, we would do well to take responsibility for our actions in any sort of disagreement or conflict that ends up in hurt feelings or alienation. Did we act or did we react? Did we act virtuous and honorable? Or did we act petty and disrespectful? It is our responsibility to have control over our actions. That responsibility is ours and ours alone.
Of course, we also need to be honest about those wrongs we may have done that were not necessarily based in “conflict”. Are there times where we may have defrauded another for our own selfish gain? Are there times where we have violated the trust that someone put in us? Are there times when we blatantly mistreated or even outright abused another- times where we deliberately violated free will of another living being? If so, these are things we need to bring to Light if true spiritual alchemy is our goal.
Working through the 4th Step, we came face to face with the mental, emotional and possibly even physical harm that others had caused us. Likewise, we fully acknowledged our roles in creating the negative situations and conditions we experience. From this step, we dug up names and situations from our past and brought ourselves face to face with their impact on our psyche. Through this, we brought healing into our being. Now it is time we fully acknowledge our roles in the hurt and perhaps even bring some healing to others.
With the aid of our 4th and perhaps even our 1st steps, we should have a pretty good idea of who we owe an apology. Now we need to be willing to do the right thing- we need to have that will to “man (woman) up” and apologize for f***in’ up. We need “Will” to do this. Not the lower case “w” will of our lower mind, but the big “W” Will that comes from aligning ourselves with our Higher Power. We can pray for our Higher Power’s guidance if we believe ourselves “unable” to apologize. Almost certainly we will find it is not that we were unable, it is that we were unwilling- our Higher Power’s guidance can help us through this, but we have to be ready to do some hard work. We need to be truly willing to go up to those we have wronged, look them in the eye, and apologize for our actions. The Blue Book states:
“A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fit the bill at all… So we clean house… asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love.”
This takes us to Step 9:
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
It has been said that the three most difficult words in the English language for one to speak are “I was wrong.” Sometimes we can be so convinced that our actions in a given situation were harmless or even justified that we are oblivious to even the remote possibility of wrongdoing on our part. We can come up with all sorts of justifiers as to how what we did harmed no one or that we were entitled to act the way we did. We may believe that the particular wrong someone has done to us so far outweighs anything that we could have possibly done to them that they “should” be the ones apologizing to us. We wait for THEM to come to us so WE can get on with our lives. This is a great way to hold onto a resentment until you die.
I had a bit of resentment towards my father that came to a head in my twenties. My mother and father had married young and split when I was two. My mother told me that it was because he was either working all the time or out with his friends, so she filed for divorce. She later told me that he told her not to come to him when I became a “hard-to-handle teenager”.
I would go to visit my father on Sundays when I was younger, but oftentimes he would be working and I would spend most of the time with my stepmother, my sister and my grandparents. He owned his own logging and trucking business in Maine, and loved what he did, but he was most definitely a workaholic. On top of that, he was not one for expressing emotion. This appeared to be more evident as I grew older.
I moved with my mother in Rhode Island, who gone into the Navy shortly after they divorced, when I was thirteen (before that time I was living with her parents). After that my relationship with my father grew more and more distant. I would see him at Christmas and Thanksgiving and get a card with money in it for my birthday, and he came to my graduation, but that was it. He never called me, so I never called him.
However there was a point when my father loaned me money for a security deposit on my first apartment. I soon forgot about this, and shirked any responsibility of paying this debt, as this was around the time I was doing a lot of drugs, partying, etc. I moved back to Maine briefly for a time after I got evicted from that apartment and started to work on mending the estranged relationship with my father as well as my sister. Things appeared to be going in a positive direction, but a few months later I moved back to Rhode Island to basically pick up where I left off.
I went back to Maine for my cousin’s graduation, where my father was also attending. I vividly remember the awkward feeling I got when I approached him and went to shake his hand only to have him walk by as if he didn’t know me. To this day I do not know exactly what that was about, as I have never asked him, even though I have my theories. I was a bit of a mess for the few months I went back and it being a small town, word might have gotten out that I was a bit of a drunk. Or he might have just been pissed that it was over a year since he gave me a loan and I hadn’t made any attempts to address it. I don’t know.
I wrote him a letter asking about what was going on, as I had not even gotten a card for my birthday that year. My stepmother was the one who wrote back, stating the card issue was a misunderstanding, but did bring up the matter of the loan. My mother was pissed as she didn’t believe he was justified to call in any debt due to her allowing him to pay so little in child support.
I would still see my father once or twice a year during holidays. He never called me. I never called him. However, I again found myself in a financial conundrum three years later after I went to college. I called to ask him if he would co-sign on a loan. He refused stating that I was “25 years old and didn’t own a vehicle” and that I just needed to “work harder”. I was pissed. I had worked to get into college (which he never did) on my own. That semester I had made dean’s list, worked as an RA at my dorm, and worked part-time on the weekends when he didn’t have classes. But I wasn’t going to beg him for money and just left it at that. I had planned to talk to him face to face about how I felt he was not treating me like a son and had never been much of a father to me. However, it was at that time his father, my grandfather, passed away.
Nearly ten years had passed after all of this when I made my amends with my father. He had been going through a separation with my stepmother when I visited him at his house. It was the first time I had gotten to sit with just him and I and talk for a long, long time. I talked with him in a way I never had before. I opened up to him and apologized for acting the way I did during that time and being irresponsible. I also expressed remorse for allowing my relationship with him, as well as my siblings to become so distant. He expressed understanding and forgiveness to me. However he did not apologize for any wrongs he may have committed according to my perception. But that’s not what this is about.
The healing from this step comes from OUR action, not from the actions of another. This step is us truly about empowerment and healing through alignment with the Higher Will. Making amends with my father was like a breath of fresh air into my being. Since that time, my conversations with my father have become more open, a he too is changing through the trials that have happened in his life. While my outreach is still not always the best, our relationship has indeed healed.
When people have near-death-experiences, they typically learn to value two things above all: knowledge, particularly wisdom knowledge of things of a Higher Vibration, and relationships with others. Our relationships, the bonds we make in life are so essential as they allow us to grow in our ability to express, feel and understand love and compassion. It is also through reaching out to others that enables us to be of service and participate in the Great Work. This is something I am stubbornly learning, but learning nonetheless.
Before I conclude, we should address the qualifier “except when to do so would injure them or others” Everyone who you meet serves as a potential catalyst for your spiritual growth and development, and the same is true for those you have met, as you can help to facilitate that in them. Sometimes this is growth through loving and joyful experiences, but sometimes this is growth that happens through pain and trauma. To bring it back to a personal level, there are people in my life whom I have lost touch with for one reason or another, and I know it is better for everyone that it stays that way.
The most obvious example would be old lovers, where feelings of unhealthy attachment/obsession or betrayal may have played a role in facilitating or ending the relationship. Perhaps they were so hurt by our actions, that it took time and distance from us to heal the wounds that we helped create; perhaps attempting to reach out to them in a desperate attempt to heal ourselves, would only cause those wounds to be reopened. This could potentially have a destructive impact not only on them, but also on their current relationships and even their family. The same can be said in those instances where an unhealthy obsession or attachment exists between two people. Perhaps we had a friend or lover that enabled us to act in self-destructive ways. If we know that reaching out to that person would cause us or them to fall back into that cycle, that connection is probably best left in the past.
In any case, we need to be mindful about our interactions with those we have wronged, and be certain that while we are ultimately doing this for our own healing first and foremost, that we aren’t doing it in a manner that is selfish and inconsiderate. Sometimes this line can be a little blurry, at which point we should ask for guidance from our Higher Power as well as reach out to members of our support group, whomever that may be. If we find there are amends that need to be made, but a face-to-face meeting (which is the most optimal as it allows real sincerity and connection to be established) or even making a phone call or mailing a letter is not a good idea or possibility, there are other options.
One option is the “un-mailed letter. Here we can write out our apology and even read it out loud, imagining the person we wish to make amends to is in the room with us. After the process is complete, we can them burn the letter in a mindful and ritualistic manner. We can also do a similar thing without the letter, simply imagining the person there and giving amends to the person that way.
Another option I have done is doing amends in a state of deep, focused meditation, using visualization techniques. You visualize the scenario in which you are meeting with the person you need to make amends with, and you speak and most importantly FEEL the raw emotion and healing of the amends.
However you do it, the most important thing is that you FEEL it with the totality of your being- it needs to be as REAL and SINCERE as possible, otherwise your just writing and burning letters or talking to people that aren’t there. Likewise, you should only do this where amends TRULY aren’t possible or are really not a good idea. We shouldn’t hide behind burned letters or imaginary conversations if there’s an opportunity for a HEALTHY face-to-face conversation. Yes, that can be scary and it can leave us incredibly vulnerable, and it may not go in an ideal fashion. But if we are truly connected to our Source for guidance in our decisions and our communications with others, what needs to be said will be said, and what needs to happen will be what happens.
The amends process is not something that can be done in a few days or even weeks. It can take years, but if we want to heal and grow as human beings and become what we can be, we will do it. As the Blue Book states:
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us- sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
Those who have ears to hear should hear. Namaste and God Bless.