Steps Eight and Nine — Center for Action and Contemplation

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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Steps Eight and Nine

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 2

Steps Eight and Nine
Monday, June 6, 2016

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. [1]

Making a list of the persons we have harmed is a reversal of the normal egoic style of making lists of what others have done to us. We are only able to do it because of the housecleaning we’ve done in the previous steps. For most humans, there is only a slow softening of the heart and a gradual loosening of our attachment to our hurts, our victimhood as a past identity, or any need to punish or humiliate others. We grow into a sense of self-responsibility instead of blaming or accusing others.

Bill Wilson saw the Twelve Steps finally leading to emotional sobriety. Sobriety is not just about no longer drinking. The goal is to become spiritually awakened, to have found some degree of detachment from our own emotions. Our emotions are not bad until and unless we are attached to them; they are helpful indicators and symptoms of what’s going on, often subconsciously, within us. However, emotions are primarily “narcissistic reactions.” They’re self-referential because they are actually based in our body, not easily available to conscious control. The body carries all of our shame, guilt, childhood conditioning, and past hurts.

We are all trying to get our programs for happiness met by one another, when only God can really meet them, so of course we’re going to be hurt and we are going to hurt others. Bill Wilson understood that we’ve got to stop depending on other people or outside events to meet our needs. We need to reverse the flow and draw it from the inside out—based on the absolute union between God and the soul—instead of from the outside in. Wilson often said, “It’s better to give than to receive” (see Acts 20:35). The union between God and the soul is the only stable, secure, and sustainable program for happiness.

Alcoholics Anonymous acknowledges that the process is gradual and in relationship with others:

There is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fit the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very careful not to criticize them. Their defects may be glaring, but the chances are that our own actions are partly responsible. So we clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that our Higher Power show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness, and love.

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to finally live it. . . . [2]

Gateway to Silence:
Thy will be done.

[1] “J,” A Simple Program: A Contemporary Translation of the Book “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Hyperion: 1996), 55.

[2] Ibid., 77.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 73; and
Emotional Sobriety: Rewiring Our Programs for “Happiness” (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2011), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

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