Powerless Over Alcohol & Life: Steps 8 and 9
STEP 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
For quite some time I missed the impact of a major portion of this step since my 8th step list only contained the names of the people I had obviously "harmed." The list was not complete and lacked the required thoroughness because I had not yet seen and therefore traced to conclusion many patterns of Satan misuse in my members. Although the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th step work had been diligent, while working this 8th step, the Holy Spirit raised my understanding to yet another level. My awareness of Satan’s destructive ways through me and disguised as me opened up to include the recognition that my attitude had harmed many who were not even aware of the harm.
For instance, members of the Sunday School classes I taught had been harmed by me because I could not give them the best. What I taught was, I know, influenced by my hidden life, and consequently was therefore not the highest and best. I had been grandiose and prideful. They had been used! I had omitted those people from my list. I had also omitted, among others, numerous customers whose interests had suffered-not so anyone else would see it, but I now admit that their interests had suffered because of my "other life."
Secretaries, business associates who were submitted to arrogance, grandiosity, lying, sexual humor, etc. had been left off the list because initially I missed the fact that these Satan patterns in my life had "harmed" these folks. Thus exposing them to my "grandiosity" created the atmosphere in which Satan could freely operate in their members or in them as their father. I had not really believed that "His divine power had given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… " (II Peter 1:3) and I therefore sought things. Thus instead of being a light, my light was darkness (I John 1:6). Many, instead of seeing His light in and as me, were robbed and saw instead Satan darkness.
There was no need to collapse and hide in despair when I discovered that these vast numbers had been omitted. I simply completed a new 4th and 5th step to include these patterns. I identified again more clearly the "exact nature of my wrongs" [5th step] and went on to the 6th and 7th steps on these new "defects of character" and "shortcomings" which were really sin-Satan toe holds in my "flesh"-my "members" (Romans 7).
So although I almost missed the opportunity provided by the 8th step to get a good Spirit look at myself by again confronting the misuse produced by "all unrighteousness" (I John 5:17), the Holy Spirit beamed His light on these hidden places of darkness. I was able to proceed because I held to the truth that notwithstanding how I felt: "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). Therefore, because the faith life I now appeared to be living was really Him living (Galatians 2:20) I could work through the great discomfort and torment that I experienced as I looked at the wake of destruction that was my path through my past.
FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY
I also missed, until recently, the conscious need at this step to be sure I was first forgiving of those of whom I would ask forgiveness. After all, since I had so violently used so many and needed their forgiveness, mustn’t I first be sure that I had forgiven them of the slights I had experienced at their hands? I learned early on in my recovery that for me resentment would kill me and so I needed to forgive. I hadn’t really understood until recently that the Scriptures taught, much earlier than the AA Big Book, that for me to experience wholeness, I must first forgive all others of wrongs committed against me. How could I effectively do this unless another was to do it for and as me?
By the way, as I began to think about this topic in more detail, I was struck again by the knowledge that whatever had been done to "me" was minuscule in comparison to the wrongs Satan had done to others through "my members." Further, many so called actions I had held onto so long as wrongs against me weren’t "wrongs" at all! Wrongly believing that my feelings were me I had made mountains out of nothing. In the vast number of cases self pity and resentment have stemmed not from anything actually done to me but were instead my own creation because I was not content with my lot. So in these few cases where I had actually been wronged, I clearly saw that my path to wholeness was well illuminated. And finally, when I saw that in some situations I hadn’t actually yet forgiven others, I became willing to forgive. After all, look at the horror I had performed in God’s name! How could I not forgive?
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).
TO NOT FORGIVE IS REBELLION
In order to reinforce the total requirement that I forgive all of those on my 8th step list, the Holy Spirit led me to the story Jesus told in Matthew 18, verses 21-25 where, being forgiven by the king, the servant refused to forgive his servant! The truth Jesus taught was that when the king discovered that the forgiven servant would not forgive his servant, the master "was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him" (Matthew 18:34) and Jesus promised that His Father would do the same (Matthew 18:35)!
I can now begin to see that if I’m not willing to forgive the slights done to me yet seek forgiveness, I’m still in rebellion against God because I am really saying that what came to me and hurt me shouldn’t have happened. God should have stopped the wrong! I was saying that God was not good to me because He permitted-even caused-me to suffer. I was again playing god because I demanded a better way for me than God’s way. What a travesty to harp about and hold onto the speck in my brother’s eye while I’ve had the enormous beam in mine! Since I hadn’t lived up to God’s or my own standards (Romans 1 and Romans 7) how could I possibly rightly judge another and thereby the work of the law in him (James 4:1112)? I couldn’t!
Finally, when I refuse to forgive a brother for the slight I feel, I’m believing that brother has operated independently of either of the spirit deities. I don’t see him as expressing the will of his father the devil and therefore just like me needing forgiveness, nor do I see him as a stolen, misused God person temporarily being operated as I was, by "sin in my members" [John 8, Romans 71.
So, I’m still completing an 8th step and expect to do so for a long time. That names will continue to surface and will be added to the list is expected and anticipated and once recognized is seen as a blessing and another opportunity to "come clean."
I don’t know how all of the amends required by the 9th step will be completed. I only know that to the extent I’m given light to see, everyone I have harmed must go on the list and if required be forgiven by me before I can experience the forgiveness I so want and need!
STEP 9: Made a direct amends
to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would
injure them or others.
The Zaccheus story (Luke 19) set the tone for my venture into step 9 and establishes some of the necessary parameters within which I worked, and continue to work, in this step. Zaccheus received Him joyfully-clearly then, this portion of the account establishes that gratitude is the basis of making amends. Unlike the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, Zaccheus is obviously grateful and humble. Likewise, Zaccheus returned more than was required. Thus, my goal was to restore more than would simply balance the account. To me this meant to be sure that when making amends there was no shadow left in my apology and request for forgiveness. I could not present a case for my actions and then apologize. I simply accept my total responsibility for the mess between me and everyone on my list and then I do what I can to repair the breech I have caused and to restore fellowship. In I John 1:7 the Holy Spirit teaches that as I walk in the light as HE is in the light, I have fellowship and am cleansed. Thus the total respon
sibility is mine and I can work in the light because He is the light walking in and as me! (Gal. 2:20)
I DON’T RESENT OTHERS’ RESPONSE TO ME
Some to whom I needed to make amends had been really abused. I started with them immediately. When I finally decided that I could not live life and that Another had to and was doing it, all the while looking like me (Galatians 2:20), the depths to which I needed to make amends far exceeded what I first thought. I’ve attempted to make amends and to do whatever I could to restore fellowship as each new obsessive pattern in my life was exposed to me. A great part of the amend I must make is to freely permit those that I have abused so badly to experience feelings of anger, distrust and revulsion toward me without in turn responding in anger, resentment or self pity. God has been gentle with me here because I have been forgiven by these folks, and the occasional flair up of hurt feelings, rejection and the like is more than justified and is something I must experience in order to remember just how bad the abuser Satan used me to so dreadfully abuse others.
I can’t afford to be like someone I know who committed adultery for years with a woman’s husband and becomes outraged when the wife occasionally remembers the great pain that caused and tells her so. If I’m doing that I pray that I be forgiven and stop immediately. That must be an affront to the Father who forgave while we were yet enemies (Romans 5). As I look at my past and my part in the chaos, I have also had that same reaction, and because I believed that my feelings were me, I could justify my resentment at those I hurt. I thought that "I" was the one who had done all these wrong, hurtful things instead of knowing that I was being misused by Satan and was expressing his lusts. Thus when someone showed me pain I had caused, I thought an "independent me" had done it and my reaction was like Cain’s. Until I saw that I was a perfectly formed vessel to bear the light of one of the two deities, I thought there was a "me" there to protect and I struck out in anger and shame. It felt and looked terrible!
PEACEMAKER NOT ABUSER
Jesus said "Blessed (which I understand to mean happy/full), are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God" (Matthew 5:8). He also said that if we were aware that someone had anything against us, it was our responsibility to do whatever possible to make it right (Matthew 5:23-24). That I had willingly obeyed Satan’s pull to unrighteousness and that I had disregarded the truth and was "self-seeking" (Romans 2:8) was clear. That I could have that slate wiped clean and experience such cleanliness by working these steps was and is amazing. For the first time in my life I did not like the feeling of resentment and sin in my members and I wanted to restore fellowship where fellowship had been broken.
I cannot honestly say that I feel that I want fellowship restored with everyone, but I can say that I am ready to be an active peacemaker where God decides He wants to go as me.
I found that some people don’t want me to make amends to them and ask their forgiveness because apparently such an admission on my part would, to them, require something on their part. Apparently their view of their universe and of themselves is so fragile that a new view, which would result if I asked forgiveness, causes so great a discomfort that they want to remain as I was: fueled by the inward discord Satan living reaps. Remember there is no cross in Satan’s heart! Thus, I’ve had people respond that they were unaware of my abuse or have been extremely nervous and upset by my presence. Paul taught, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peacefully with all men" (Romans 12:18). We are further taught, "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another" (Romans 14:19).
So, I’m finished with amends toward many I have wronged and still working on others. Physical circumstances are making a personal face to face meeting difficult with some. With others, I don’t know where they are. With a few, it appears that to make amends would cause harm and I must choose therefore not to presently pursue them, although so far as I know I am entirely ready to express my total responsibility for the break in fellowship and the harm my action and attitude caused.
Anonymity is a fundamental tradition in AA. However, the writer welcomes any questions or comments, which may be sent to the magazine office.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 9 No 3
- Judging Good and Evil
- The Self Can’t Be Improved
- A Look at a Book
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- Moments with Meryl
- And Man=You and Me
- Creation and the Fall of Man
- A Call To Arms
- THE MAILBOX
- Where Are the Elijahs of God?
- Powerless Over Alcohol & Life: Steps 8 and 9
- HOPKINSVILLE, KY CONFERENCE
- JACKSON, MS CONFERENCE
- SEVENTH BRITISH SPRING CONFERENCE 1993
- From "Real Man" To "God’s Man"
- Editor’s Note
- No Independent Self Part Two