This week’s segment of Here’s To Your Health is more about Step Nine, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Bill Wilson said in his book, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions: It is necessary only that we make a general admission of our defects 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 our family. We may not want to say anything for several weeks, or longer. First we will wish to be reasonable 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 astonish us. Even our severest and most justified critics will frequently meet us more than halfway on the first trial.
This 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 in advance, such reactions will not deflect us from our steady and even purpose.
After taking this preliminary trial at making amends, we can 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.
As soon as we 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 them 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.
Richmond Walker in his daily meditation book titled, Twenty-Four Hours a Day, said: First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift to God. First I must get right with God. If I hold resentment against someone, which I find very difficult to overcome, I should try to put something else constructive into my mind. I should pray for the one against whom I hold the resentment. I should put that person in God’s hands and let God show him or her the way to live. If we say we love God and yet hate other people, we are liars, for if we don’t love those who we have seen how can we love God whom we have not seen?