10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Steps 10, 11, and 12 are often thought of as maintenance steps or walking-around steps. With them we live the OA program on a daily basis and keep away from food. They give us structure for our days and guidelines for our conduct. In particular, step 10 keeps us out of trouble and from worsening the sorts of self-made predicaments we addicts put ourselves into.
There’s no sugarcoating it. Even after doing steps 1 through 9, we will still be prone to behaving selfishly, dishonestly, and fearfully with self-seeking tendencies. That’s be because we are flawed, imperfect human beings. Our inventories showed us that. So it’s good to be reminded in step 10 that we have to be vigilant. We have to watch out for our old ways of thinking and acting. They will pop up again, and they can still cause harm to ourselves, our relationships with other people, and to our relationship with God.
So we watch for them carefully. The Big Book is very specific about what we should do when we see them recur:
When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. (84)
In other words, step 10 is steps 4 through 9 all rolled into one. We are recognizing and admitting our shortcomings, asking to have them removed, and making amends for their results.
Here’s what we don’t do. We don’t stew on our shortcomings and tell ourselves that we’re bad people…or that the other person involved is. We don’t endlessly ask ourselves how this could happen to us as recovered people. We don’t worry what another person will think of us. Those are old ways of thinking that got us sick and kept us that way. Step 10 shows us a new way to be: mindful of our own behavior, willing to take action on it, and quick to remedy it.
There’s this part of step 10 that might seem foreign to us. The part that begins “when we were wrong.” Many of us have one or both of a deadly pair of long and tightly held beliefs: one, that we were never wrong, and/or, two, that if we were wrong, we should never let it be known lest we lose face! This is, of course, pridefulness. Many of us have enjoyed running others down for these very faults, yet we ourselves did the same things.
Step 10 tells us to put an end to it.
We saw in step 4 that resentments often affected our pride. We got puffed up with it when angry, or another’s actions or words would shoot it full of holes. It often connected with harsh judgments of self and others, with mistreatment of others, and with a rigidity that perversely robbed us of our joy and dignity. But as we worked steps four through nine, we found ourselves gently humbled. God showed us right-sizedness, and we realized that our lack of humility and self-centeredness was killing us. God also showed us that being wrong wasn’t so bad—after all we did it a lot! In fact, it was utterly human to be wrong. The problem was actually with us and our fears about what it meant to be wrong, the story we told ourselves about it.
So now, in step 10, we allow ourselves to be wrong and be human. We find it hurts much less to admit our wrongness than to hide it. Even with little things and especially with big things. As our relationships improve, we find that people like us better for admitting when we’ve been wrong. The admittance actually strengthens our relationships. By being wrong and admitting it, we gain the credibility with others that we had so long feared losing. It isn’t always easy and doesn’t always feel natural. Sometimes the admittance comes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes late. But never too late. It’s never too late for the tenth step…but we should try to be prompt about it.
So as we walk around, being human and trying to be better humans, we have step 10 in our pocket. It’s ready to pull out at any moment, the ultimate Swiss Army knife for spiritual living.