Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
In Step Four through Step Seven, all of my resentments toward individuals and institutions as well as all of my character defects were laid bare. I count this surgical operation on my soul as an act of God’s mercy. And it was impossible to examine my life and conduct in that way without recognizing the harm that I have caused others. Often a resentment was attached to some behavior of mine that did harm instead of good. Enter Step Eight and Step Nine.
When I think of Step Eight and Step Nine, I also think of what Jesus said:
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5: 23-24
Through this 12-step process I am making a sincere effort to “get better;” to recover. And this recovery effort is a journey to the heart of God. But as I approach that sacred throne—the altar of his Sacred Heart which, as Catholics, we know to be the table at the Mass—I must examine myself. What am I holding onto against someone? Or who has a grudge against me that I have the ability to “go and make right”?
It would not be ideal to realize these things moments before entering the church (although “now” is better than never!). Ideally, I will live a way of life that has a deep concern for my conduct toward others and desire to make things right as much as I can, whenever I can. In this way, I will always be ready to approach the sacred table at the Mass.
I once got some sage advice from a fellow traveler on the 12-step journey. She told me to make sure I didn’t do Step Nine until I talked it over with my sponsor or another wise advisor. This is crucial. Because, although God wants me to make amends so far as I am able—and often times this can cost me a great deal personally—, I must also weigh and consider the other person, the one who was harmed.
Setting aside how it might affect me, I must consider how it might affect them. In other words, is it wise to approach an estranged ex-girlfriend who is now happily married with kids and blissfully ignorant of my life? Maybe not! And so we seek wise counsel before we act (Prov. 15:22).
The spiritual principle of Step Eight and Step Nine is one of reconciliation to my fellow man. God is the instigator of this reconciliation through giving us His Beloved Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and willful separation from His love. But this immense grace calls me to be a participant as well. And so I reach out and do the hard work of making amends.
Read Charlie’s reflections on the other Twelve Steps: Step One, Step Two, Step Three, Step Four and Step Five, Step Six and Step Seven, Step Ten and Step Eleven, and Step Twelve.
Charlie lives in sunny Florida with his small (but growing!) family. He holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics and has a passion for writing about recovery and the Catholic Faith in his spare time. Charlie’s 12-step experience has been in overeaters anonymous, but he finds joy in “working the steps” in every aspect of his life and sharing those tools with others. You can also find him writing at tamingthewilds.com.