Step Eight of AA: Forgiveness

Step Eight of AA: Forgiveness

Society sees the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the Bible for anyone looking to recover from an addiction.  The program has an estimated success rate of between 8% and 12% according to addiction specialists, and AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide.  Nonetheless, regardless of your thoughts on the program there are valuable lessons we can learn from their text. Above all, each step offers a different gift to an addict. In this series we take a subjective look explaining the benefit each step brings.

The Gift of Forgiveness

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.  Addressing the damage you caused in the past is usually terrifying. Working through, and becoming cognizant of, the wreckage an addiction caused is difficult enough.  On the other hand, taking the initiative to restore damaged relationships is a whole different experience.

Step Four can be viewed as internally cleansing of your spirit. On the other hand, Step Eight is an external cleanse of your social sphere.  In Step Four you begin realizing the consequences your actions have had on yourself as well as other people. Step Eight fosters compassion in your soul and you begin to build the courage needed to make amends with your social circle.

What this Teaches

Forgiveness frees the spirit.  By asking for forgiveness, and forgiving those who have done us wrong, we begin regaining our trust in humanity.  Courage and honesty are required for the act of making a list of all persons we’ve harmed. Furthermore, by doing so we hold ourselves accountable.  We learn to have compassion for ourselves through admitting we’ve made mistakes and recognizing we’re only human. In reality, there all all sorts of gifts taught in Step Eight. That’s just to name a few of them.

This Step is all about recognizing the pain you’ve caused to those around you and listing those people affected by name.  One important aspect of this is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Addicts are often perfectionists, who went to justify their actions.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter if we were justified in causing harm to these people; or if we caused the harm by being careless, selfish, angry, or dishonest.  It doesn’t even matter if we intended the harm. What matters is that we’re, as they say, cleaning up our side of the street.

Why This is Important

Although it feels uncomfortable at first the honesty required in working 12 Step brings previously unattainable freedom.  Putting our demons behind us gives us the freedom to breath and to live in the present. We start the process of making amends, potentially being forgiven by others as well as forgiving them, while (most importantly) forgiving ourselves in this Step.

Before being able to rebuild relationships we must recognize the ones we damaged.  This is what we do in Step Eight. When we make a list of the people we have harmed and become willing to make amends we remedy the past and learn to live a life where we can proudly look others in the eye.

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