Our Step Four inventory gives us the basis for our Step Eight list. We review our inventory to identify those we have harmed. “There are countless ways we may have harmed others: lying, cheating, ingratitude, anger, criticism, rudeness, gossip, sexual infidelity, or selfishness.” Some of the people we have harmed may feel bitter toward us and resist our attempts at restitution. This is, unfortunately, part of the pain we must bear.
We make amends in various ways. In some cases, we make amends by changing our behavior: we stop doing one thing and start doing another. In most cases, we need to make direct contact with those we have harmed and seek to repair the damage we have done. This may involve an apology, repayment of a debt, or an act of kindness toward the other person.
In certain situations, to seek to make amends will only make a bad situation worse. Rhilip St. Romain has good advice to offer:
Ask yourself two questions to help you determine whether apology or amends are in order: Will an apology help me to grow in relationship with this person? and Will my apology help the person and/or others in question more than it will hurt them? If you can answer an unequivocal “Yes” to both questions, then you need to begin planning your reconciliatory approach; if you answer “No” to both, then let the matter die. If you are not sure about either, then talk it out with someone until you are sure…. “While we may be quite willing to reveal the very worst, we must be sure to remember that we cannot buy our own peace of mind at the expense of others.” This is excellent advice coming from AA…. There is a difference between prudent silence and evasion; in the former, the good of the other is at stake, in the latter, only selfishness.
In undertaking Step Nine:
•Approach the other person with a loving attitude.
•Be willing to accept the consequences of your actions.
•Think through beforehand what you want to say and do.
•Keep it simple and direct.
•Don’t blame the other person.
•Don’t go into this with any expectations about how the other person should respond to you.
•Remember that this is all about YOUR part in the situation, not the other person’s We can surely find fault in others, but in Step Nine we deal with our issues, not theirs.
•To offer an apology is one thing, to change the offending behavior is even better.
•Pray that God will guide you.