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direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when
to do so would injure them or others."
Good judgment, a careful sense of timing, courage, and prudence--these
are the qualities we shall need when we take Step Nine.
we have made the list of people we have harmed, have reflected
carefully upon each instance, and have tried to possess
ourselves of the right attitude in which to proceed, we
will see that the making of direct amends divides those
we should approach into several classes. There will be those
who ought to be dealt with just as soon as we become reasonably
confident that we can maintain our sobriety. There will
be those to whom we can make only partial restitution, lest
complete disclosures do them or others more harm than good.
There will be other cases where action ought to be deferred,
and still others in which by the very nature of the situation
we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at
of us begin making certain kinds of direct amends from the
day we join Alcoholics Anonymous. The moment we tell our
families that we are really going to try the program, the
process has begun. In this area there are seldom any questions
of timing or caution. We want to come in the door shouting
the good news. After coming from our first meeting, or perhaps
after we have finished reading the book "Alcoholics
Anonymous," we usually want to sit down with some member
of the family and readily admit the damage we have done
by our drinking. Almost always we want to go further and
admit other defects that have made us hard to live with.
This will be a very different occasion, and in sharp contrast
with those hangover mornings when we alternated between
reviling ourselves and blaming the family (and everyone
else) for our troubles. At this first sitting, it is necessary
only that we make a general admission of our defects. It
may be unwise at this stage to rehash certain harrowing
episodes. Good judgment will suggest that we ought to take
our time. 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.
the same approach will apply at the office or factory. We
shall at once think of a few people who know all about our
drinking, and who have been most affected by it. But even
in these cases, we may need to use a little more discretion
than we did with the family. We may not want to say anything
for several weeks, or longer. First we will wish to be reasonably
certain that we are on the A.A. beam. Then we are ready
to go to these people, to tell them what A.A. is, and what
we are trying to do. Against this background we can freely
admit the damage we have done and make our apologies. We
can pay, or promise to pay, whatever obligations, financial
or otherwise, we owe. The generous response of most people
to such quiet sincerity will often astonish us. Even our
severest and most justified critics will frequently meet
us more than halfway on the first trial.
atmosphere of approval and praise is apt to be so exhilarating
as to put us off balance by creating an insatiable appetite
for more of the same. Or we may be tipped over in the other
direction when, in rare cases, we get a cool and skeptical
reception. This will tempt us to argue, or to press our
point insistently. Or maybe it will tempt us to discouragement
and pessimism. But if we have prepared ourselves well in
advance, such reactions will not deflect us from our steady
and even purpose.
taking this preliminary trial at making amends, we may enjoy
such a sense of relief that we conclude our task is finished.
We will want to rest on our laurels. The temptation to skip
the more humiliating and dreaded meetings that still remain
may be great. We will often manufacture plausible excuses
for dodging these issues entirely. Or we may just procrastinate,
telling ourselves the time is not yet, when in reality we
have already passed up many a fine chance to right a serious
wrong. Let's not talk prudence while practicing evasion.
soon as we begin to feel confident in our new way of life
and have begun, by our behavior and example, to convince
those about us that we are indeed changing for the better,
it is usually safe to talk in complete frankness with those
who have been seriously affected, even those who may be
only a little or not at all aware of what we have done to
them. The only exceptions we will make will be cases where
our disclosure would cause actual harm. These conversations
can begin in a casual or natural way. But if no such opportunity
presents itself, at some point we will want to summon all
our courage, head straight for the person concerned, and
lay our cards on the table. We needn't wallow in excessive
remorse before those we have harmed, but amends at this
level should always be forthright and generous.
can only be one consideration which should qualify our desire
for a complete disclosure of the damage we have done. That
will arise in the occasional situation where to make a full
revelation would seriously harm the one to whom we are making
amends. Or--quite as important--other people. We cannot,
for example, unload a detailed account of extramarital adventuring
upon the shoulders of our unsuspecting wife or husband.
And even in those cases where such a matter must be discussed,
let's try to avoid harming third parties, whoever they may
be. It does not lighten our burden when we recklessly make
the crosses of others heavier.
a razor-edged question can arise in other departments of
life where this same principle is involved. Suppose, for
instance, that we have drunk up a good chunk of our firm's
money, whether by "borrowing" or on a heavily
padded expense account. Suppose that this may continue to
go undetected, if we say nothing. Do we instantly confess
our irregularities to the firm, in the practical certainty
that we will be fired and become unemployable? Are we going
to be so rigidly righteous about making amends that we don't
care what happens to the family and home? Or do we first
consult those who are to be gravely affected? Do we lay
the matter before our sponsor or spiritual adviser, earnestly
asking God's help and guidance--meanwhile resolving to do
the right thing when it becomes clear, cost what it may?
Of course, there is no pat answer which can fit all such
dilemmas. But all of them do require a complete willingness
to make amends as fast and as far as may be possible in
a given set of conditions.
all, we should try to be absolutely sure that we are not
delaying because we are afraid. For the readiness to take
the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility
for the well-being of others at the same time, is the very
spirit of Step Nine.
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