We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
The principle for Step 8 is brotherly love, when we start the process of making things right with others--to make amends. Amends are compensation for a loss or injury and making a change or modification for the better, to improve upon the situation.
“‘Say to the Israelites: “When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.”’” Numbers 5:6-7 (NIV)
Amends goes beyond apologies. It is restitution, and it means that we have changed our behavior. If we are still behaving in the same manner that we are making amends for, then our amends are not sincere. That’s why Step 7 is important; we need God to remove the defects so that we can make things right.
How do we know which names and incidents to put on the list? Step 8 says all persons we have harmed. “All” includes every single person I have harmed or sinned against in my addiction, obsession, behavioral or emotional issues--without exception or excuse, regardless of a person’s status or location, living or dead. Also, our Step 4 inventory may prove to be helpful.
We may be tempted to get ahead of ourselves and think about logistics and the impossibility of meeting with those we have hurt. Two people on my list are children I never met.
When I was in the midst of my addictions, during a time of destructive living, two women I was with became pregnant. One tried to tell me, but I did not give her the opportunity; the other didn’t tell me until sometime later. Both of these women had abortions. These two babies are on my list, as well as the two women.
But logistics comes later. Step 8 is about making our list and getting our hearts ready to make amends.
In Luke 19:8, Zacchaeus appears to be willing to make amends. "But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
How do we become willing? Zacchaeus came into Jesus’ presence; we can do the same through prayer. We need to pray for our own willingness, for those with whom we are making amends, how we will make amends, and what the amends will be.
We are not expected to be perfect and sinless--that is impossible. However, our efforts must be sincere and honest.
Joe and Carol Sclafani have been married 26 years. Together, they lead The Straight Path, a Christ-centered Recovery Care Group for those struggling with addiction, physical or sexual abuse, and many other behaviors and emotional challenges. Contact: Joe Sclafani, joestraightpath (at) truevine (dot) net. For details about Pathway Ministries, check out their ministry blog.