This week’s segment of Here’s To Your Health ends Step Nine, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would harm them or others.” In his book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill Wilson said: There can only be one consideration that 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 should not 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, lets 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.
Many 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 so rigidly righteous about making amends that we don’t care what happens to our family, home and financial security? Or, do we first consult those who are to be gravely affected? Do we lay the matter before our sponsor or spiritual advisor, 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’s no pat answer that 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.
Above 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 spirit of Step Nine.
On page 83 of the Third Edition of the Book Alcoholics Anonymous Bill Wilson said: The Spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it. Unless one’s family expresses a desire to live upon spiritual principles we think we ought not to urge them. We should not talk incessantly to them about spiritual matters. Our changed behavior will convince them more than our words. We must remember that ten, twenty or thirty years, of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone… If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.