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a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing
to make amends to them all."
Steps Eight and Nine are concerned with personal relations.
First, we take a look backward and try to discover where
we have been at fault; next we make a vigorous attempt to
repair the damage we have done; and third, having thus cleaned
away the debris of the past, we consider how, with our newfound
knowledge of ourselves, we may develop the best possible
relations with every human being we know.
is a very large order. It is a task which we may perform
with increasing skill, but never really finish. Learning
how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood
with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving
and fascinating adventure. Every A.A. has found that he
can make little headway in this new adventure of living
until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and
unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his
wake. To a degree, he has already done this when taking
moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought
to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt,
and in what ways. This reopening of emotional wounds, some
old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering,
will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece
of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great
advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves
that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another
obstacles, however, are very real. The first, and one of
the most difficult, has to do with forgiveness. The moment
we ponder a twisted or broken relationship with another
person, our emotions go on the defensive. To escape looking
at the wrongs we have done another, we resentfully focus
on the wrong he has done us. This is especially true if
he has, in fact, behaved badly at all. Triumphantly we seize
upon his misbehavior as the perfect excuse for minimizing
or forgetting our own.
here we need to fetch ourselves up sharply. It doesn't make
much sense when a real toss pot calls a kettle black. Let's
remember that alcoholics are not the only ones bedeviled
by sick emotions. Moreover, it is usually a fact that our
behavior when drinking has aggravated the defects of others.
We've repeatedly strained the patience of our best friends
to a snapping point, and have brought out the very worst
in those who didn't think much of us to begin with. In many
instances we are really dealing with fellow sufferers, people
whose woes we have increased. If we are now about to ask
forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn't we start out by
forgiving them, one and all?
listing the people we have harmed, most of us hit another
solid obstacle. We got a pretty severe shock when we realized
that we were preparing to make a face-to-face admission
of our wretched conduct to those we had hurt. It had been
embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted these
things to God, to ourselves, and to another human being.
But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the
people concerned now overwhelmed us, especially when we
remembered in what poor favor we stood with most of them.
There were cases, too, where we had damaged others who were
still happily unaware of being hurt. Why, we cried, shouldn't
bygones be bygones? Why do we have to think of these people
at all? These were some of the ways in which fear conspired
with pride to hinder our making a list of all the people
we had harmed.
of us, though, tripped over a very different snag. We clung
to the claim that when drinking we never hurt anybody but
ourselves. Our families didn't suffer, because we always
paid the bills and seldom drank at home. Our business associates
didn't suffer, because we were usually on the job. Our reputations
hadn't suffered, because we were certain few knew of our
drinking. Those who did would sometimes assure us that,
after all, a lively bender was only a good man's fault.
What real harm, therefore, had we done? No more, surely,
than we could easily mend with a few casual apologies.
attitude, of course, is the end result of purposeful forgetting.
It is an attitude which can only be changed by a deep and
honest search of our motives and actions.
in some cases we cannot make restitution at all, and in
some cases action ought to be deferred, we should nevertheless
make an accurate and really exhaustive survey of our past
life as it has affected other people. In many instances
we shall find that though the harm done others has not been
great, the emotional harm we have done ourselves has. Very
deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damaging emotional conflicts
persist below the level of consciousness. At the time of
these occurrences, they may actually have given our emotions
violent twists which have since discolored our personalities
and altered our lives for the worse.
the purpose of making restitution to others is paramount,
it is equally necessary that we extricate from an examination
of our personal relations every bit of information about
ourselves and our fundamental difficulties that we can.
Since defective relations with other human beings have nearly
always been the immediate cause of our woes, including our
alcoholism, no field of investigation could yield more satisfying
and valuable rewards than this one. Calm, thoughtful reflection
upon personal relations can deepen our insight. We can go
far beyond those things which were superficially wrong with
us, to see those flaws which were basic, flaws which sometimes
were responsible for the whole pattern of our lives. Thoroughness,
we have found, will pay--and pay handsomely.
might next ask ourselves what we mean when we say that we
have "harmed" other people. What kinds of "harm"
do people do one another, anyway? To define the word "harm"
in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts
in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or
spiritual damage to people. If our tempers are consistently
bad, we arouse anger in others. If we lie or cheat, we deprive
others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional
security and peace of mind. We really issue them an invitation
to become contemptuous and vengeful. If our sex conduct
is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong
desire to retaliate in kind.
gross misbehavior is not by any means a full catalogue of
the harms we do. Let us think of some of the subtler ones
which can sometimes be quite as damaging. Suppose that in
our family lives we happen to be miserly, irresponsible,
callous, or cold. Suppose that we are irritable, critical,
impatient, and humorless. Suppose we lavish attention upon
one member of the family and neglect the others. What happens
when we try to dominate the whole family, either by a rule
of iron or by a constant outpouring of minute directions
for just how their lives should be lived from hour to hour?
What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing
from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us? Such
a roster of harms done others--the kind that make daily
living with us as practicing alcoholics difficult and often
unbearable could be extended almost indefinitely. When we
take such personality traits as these into shop, office,
and the society of our fellows, they can do damage almost
as extensive as that we have caused at home.
carefully surveyed this whole area of human relations, and
having decided exactly what personality traits in us injured
and disturbed others, we can now commence to ransack memory
for the people to whom we have given offense. To put a finger
on the nearby and most deeply damaged ones shouldn't be
hard to do. Then, as year by year we walk back through our
lives as far as memory will reach, we shall be bound to
construct a long list of people who have, to some extent
or other, been affected. We should, of course, ponder and
weigh each instance carefully. We shall want to hold ourselves
to the course of admitting the things we have done, meanwhile
forgiving the wrongs done us, real or fancied. We should
avoid extreme judgments, both of ourselves and of others
involved. We must not exaggerate our defects or theirs.
A quiet, objective view will be our steadfast aim.
our pencil falters, we can fortify and cheer ourselves by
remembering what A.A. experience in this Step has meant
to others. It is the beginning of the end of isolation from
our fellows and from God.
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