8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
There are two parts to Step 8: make a list and become willing. We’ve talked extensively in a previous post about that list, so let’s focus more on the willingness. What we’re really becoming willing to do is ignore our pride and our fear.
Our pride may tell us that this is all too much. It will imagine forward into the ninth step. It may tell us that the process will feel humiliating, like begging forgiveness on our bended knees or like prostrating ourselves before another person. The Big Book gives sound advice. We are never to be “scraping or servile” it says. We are absolutely not making amends to gain forgiveness. That’s selfish thinking—as in What can I get from this encounter? In fact, we are not aiming to gain anything, only to do what we can to put as square as possible the relationships we’ve skewed through our behavior as food addicts.
Rather than listen to our pride and its imaginings of the future, we keep it in the present and just pray for willingness.
Our fear is more potent yet. It may tell us that making amends threatens our emotional or even physical well-being. Or that we just can’t do it. We are likely afraid of encountering anger, rejection, or bad feelings. We may also be afraid of letting the words fall from our mouths, for shattering the idea that we’ve been perfect or never wrong. Again, fear is projecting a future that is unlikely to occur. Most amends go smoothly, some go delightfully, and, yes, some don’t go well. It doesn’t matter. Right now, we are merely becoming willing to go through with them. If someone becomes angry at us, they have every right. After all, we harmed them!
Rather than listen to our fear and its imaginings of the future, we keep it in the present and just pray for willingness.
If we remain unwilling to commit to this path, we pray until we become willing. But we don’t need to sit passively by either, awaiting spiritual dew drops of willingness to fall onto our foreheads. Instead, we can talk to others about what’s blocking us. Having just put down the food, taken inventory, and had our defects of character removed, we can test the new clarity our HP has given us to consider the costs and benefits of moving forward or staying at Step 8. Let’s look at them.
- I’ll eat again because I’m not growing spiritually and I’m not completing the program of action that’s known to work
- My relationships won’t improve or change
- I’ll still feel discomfort about the harms I’ve caused
- I won’t have to admit I’ve been or done wrong
- I won’t have to face fears or anger and rejection
- I won’t have to give up control of the situation
- I’ll have to swallow my pride
- I’ll have to summon courage from HP to face my fears
- I’ll have to accept the outcome, whatever it may be
- I’ll be growing spiritually and taking out insurance against eating again
- I’ll feel freedom from self-resentment about the harms I’ve done
- My relationships and life circumstances will improve
- I’ll feel self-esteem for following through on something difficult
- Other peoples’ lives may change for the better because I’ve have broken the negative cycle between us
Seems pretty straightforward. We exchange a little discomfort for a truckload of blessings. This is exactly why the promises we read at most meetings are found in the ninth step—because we can’t get those promises without cleaning up our side of the street. Only then do we receive the entirety of the spiritual bounty that OA promises us.
Emotions are very, very powerful. They are often also misleading. As people in recovery, we understand that we’ve let our emotions run our lives into the ground. As we become willing to make amends in Step 8, we are reminding ourselves that our Higher Power runs the show, not our feelings. We still have our feelings, but we now have Steps 10 and 11 as well as the nine OA tools to safely deal with them. They needn’t block us from taking action that will save us instead of action—or inaction—that will kill us.