This sounds like an over whelming step and I want you to really stay in a place where you know that you’re not doing the work. This step says to make the list and become willing. But it doesn’t say to actually make the amends. What you did in Steps 6 and 7 is really important. You were entirely ready to have God remove all the defects of character that you looked at in Step 4. “I humbly ask God to remove all my short comings.” Now, you’re going to continue that theme. You’re going to make this list. You’re going to look at these resentments. You’re going to look at the things that have happened in your past. But you’re not going to do the work. You’re just going to become willing to allow God to work. It’s really important. Don’t pick it up yourself. You have done a horrible job at this and you will continue to do a horrible job at it, so you’ve got to not take it on.
It’s just like you don’t do your own surgery. I can go in and tell the doctor what’s wrong. I can point to what’s wrong. I can give him some information, but I’m not going to do the surgery. I’m going to turn it over to the surgeon and let him hold the scalpel. Because if I start to do it I’m going to stop when it hurts. Imagine that you get in a motorcycle accident and you skid on the road. You break a few bones and you’ve got gravel stuck everywhere. If you go in and start removing that gravel, it’s going to be painful. It’s the same with this step. When you start to look at some of the stuff in your life, it brings up anxiety and pain. When that happens during this step, back away for a little bit. Go to a peaceful place, because that’s not the intention of this step.
But even making the list can be painful. You will actually make three lists.
The people who have harmed you
Your first list will be all the people who have harmed you. Write down every single person. Think about everyone. I wrote my mom on this list because I don’t believe she ever loved me. She had her own issues, and I know that, but I was never held by her or loved by her. I can walk into a room, even to this day and I can see, sometimes, the hatred and the anger she has for me. That’s really painful. Yours will be too, but put it down. And other relationships, too. Are there spouses that you’ve struggled with? Are there bosses that you’ve struggled with? Siblings that you’ve struggled with? Did someone rip you off at one point? One girl told me she went to jail for seven years because her girlfriend set her up with this drug thing! So put down all that kind of stuff on your list.
Ask God, “God, can you lead me? Where’s are my anger, where’s my shame, where’s my hurt?” Those are the things that keep us in bondage. The things that keep us in bondage are our anger, our bitterness, our shame, and our guilt. That’s the gravel in the wound. And the wound can never heal until I allow someone to take the gravel out. It can’t heal. There’s no way. Even if the skin starts to grow over it you’re going to have some painful issues because there are still rocks in there. There’s still gravel in there. There may be glass still in there, or a broken bone. Emotionally, you’ve got all of this gravel, all this stuff, inside you. So when you start doing your lists, start out with this first list of everybody who has hurt you. Keep at it until you exhaust yourself, until you’ve put down everybody’s name that you can think of. Just remember, this is not about fixing it at this point. This is just being willing for God to fix it – to make amends.
When I looked at my mom and all of her issues, I couldn’t see any fault that I played in the situation. At this point, I couldn’t see where it had damaged me and all of my other intimate relationships. So I really had to just write it out and let God show me the rest. As I started to list all the things that people have done to hurt me, I started to start to see patterns in my life. I started to see patterns in their lives. God showed me how my mom was injured as a kid. He showed me how her injuries caused her inability to love. One time she even gave me an autobiography where she talked about not being able to love me and give me what I needed, and her guilt and shame about that.
As you work on your list, just be ready for God to show you some things. It may not happen at the time you’re doing the list but gradually you will start to become willing and able to receive a different point of view. And that’s incredible! If I’ve got gravel stuck all over me, every time I put my elbow down on the table I’m going to want to scream. And emotionally the same kind of thing. When I’m looking at everything through pain I can’t see it rationally. I can’t see it in a way that brings healing. I can’t see it in a way that brings hope. But as I start to heal, I can start to see it differently.
Here’s an example of what I mean. I love my mom – she’s just amazing – but we don’t have a lot of intimate moments where we talk to each other. I mean, it’s very polite and sometimes things happen that I just take a breath. But one night I was over at her house. It was particularly late at night and I was sitting in front of the computer doing something. My family stays up really late. That’s what we do in our addictions. So it was like 2:30 in the morning and I’m in front of the computer and my sister’s got some friends coming over (I think to buy some meth) and they go into the garage for a little bit.
I’m just on the computer and my mom comes up and sits behind me. And she says to me “Can I tell you something?” And I thought, ok. I felt really impressed not to turn around, not to touch her, not to do anything, not to break that moment. I knew it was going to be kind of an intimate moment. I could tell by her voice and I just felt like God said, “don’t turn around, just listen.” So I listened and she told me a story about when she was a kid. She was given up by her mom when she was five and given to an aunt who really loved her. There was a lot of damage in the relationships in the family, but not with this aunt. She really loved her little niece.
My mom got to have ice skating classes and art lessons and she liked to write. When she was twelve years old she got a scholarship for a high school. She had been advanced a few grades because she’s that bright. And she got a scholarship to an arts academy. She talked about having that scholarship and how it meant everything to her. She said, “At first I thought maybe they just gave it to me because I was twelve and it was a novelty because I was so young.” It took the counselor at the school about three months to convince her that she won the scholarship because she was an incredible writer and artist -because she did really good work. She won it fair and square. But by the time she was accepting this and feeling incredible about it, everything changed.
Her mom, who was alcoholic and in and out of relationships, decided to be in a relationship again. They were going to move from Canada to California. They came over and packed my mom up and moved her to another country. I don’t think anybody said, “what about her school and what about the scholarship and what about the arts academy and maybe this was not a good time to move her.” Nobody said that. Adults often don’t really think about stuff like that or take their kids’ feelings and lives into account. They are just very self focused in that way. Anyway, as she was telling me what happened, I just felt so sad. All of a sudden I had some insight into my mother and why she shut down emotionally, why she felt angry, why she got into the relationships she did.
When they got to California, she got into high school. She was twelve years old in the ninth grade. She met my father, who was older. They have sex and she ends up pregnant and her life just goes from one thing to another. They have five kids, she gives up all her dreams about becoming an artist or a writer and takes her anger and her hatred out on her second child, which is me. At that moment everything kind of made sense to me, and I couldn’t really be angry in the same way.
I think that when we start doing Step 8 – when we write things down – we start to become willing to make amends and allow God to teach us what happened in other people’s lives. That’s not to excuse what happened, not to say it was ok that you weren’t loved as a child. None of that’s ok. It shouldn’t have happened that way. But, man! I need some understanding so I can let go of the bitterness and the anger. So I can let go of the guilt and the shame. And so I can let go of thinking I must have been this huge mistake and there’s something dreadfully wrong with me. Because none of that’s true and I can’t step into recovery if I believe all of that stuff.
I have to be able to look at what happened and start to allow truth and forgiveness to kind of seep in so I can let go of what has kept me in bondage all these years. I believe this step helps with that. As you write the list down, you start to become willing to make amends to all of them.
The people you have harmed
The next list is you’re going to make is those people you have harmed. And that’s horrible! It’s easier to look at people who have harmed you. Sometimes people can’t get to the place of seeing the damage they’ve done. Like for me. I couldn’t get to that place if I kept thinking about the people who had harmed me and kept wanting someone to make amends to me and tell me they were sorry. I had to start with the list of people who had harmed me, but then I needed to move on and make the list of people I had harmed. You will need to do that too.
When I started to list people I have harmed, it got painful. I was on the streets very early, picked up by people who funneled me into the sex trade industry in Los Angeles There are 80,000 kids on the streets there right now. At least 80,000. And I was funneled into that industry. I couldn’t do prostitution because I had been molested my whole life and that was just too much. But I got into dancing in clubs. I remember when I started to work on my list of people I’ve harmed, I thought, “You know that’s something I’ve done but it didn’t hurt anyone. I mean, maybe it hurt me but it didn’t hurt anyone else.” But God allowed me to see that I had fostered the sexual addictions of the men and women that came into the club. I had fueled that and they went home and abused their wives or their children or themselves. I really did harm people. Looking at that more honestly, it was really kind of self-protecting to say I didn’t hurt anybody but myself. I hurt a lot of people.
I think God shows us the damage we’ve done, not because he wants to hurt us or shame us, but because he wants us free. He wants to tell us, “Don’t lie to yourself anymore. Honestly look at what was done to you and also look at the damage you have done. You need to look at all those things and allow Me to start showing you some ways to heal.”
There were other things I had done to hurt someone else, too. I left relationships easily. At most I was in a relationship two or three months, maybe less, and I would leave. I have attachment disorders. I didn’t stay long. I didn’t care what you felt. I was too fearful and I just didn’t stay in relationships. But I had to look at how hurtful that was to the people I left. They would come home and I would just be gone, you know, and I would go on to the next relationship. And so I had to look at that. I lied easily, I manipulated easily, I conned people out of things and money. I was on the streets for ten years, so I did all that kind of stuff. Writing down the things that I have done to hurt people, the things I have said to hurt people … that’s not an easy list to write.
The harm you’ve done to yourself
The next list you might to look at – and for some people this is really tough – but you might want to make amends to yourself. Make a list of the ways you have harmed yourself. We put ourselves into such hurtful relationships and dangerous situations and abusive situations. It’s like we become our own perpetrator. No one else is doing it to us now. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re allowing people to lie to us, we’re allowing people to abuse us. Neglecting ourselves is wrong. Diminishing our gifts or our worth is wrong. Allowing ourselves to be mistreated and abused is wrong. It’s inappropriate for us to continuously get into relationships that are abusive. So you might need to list the things you have done to yourself that have caused you to feel shame or anger or resentment.
If, at any point, as you work on this list you feel it’s too much, too overwhelming, make sure you do it with someone . Have a friend, a sponsor, a support group, … have people around you. Even if it’s the pastor. Make sure you work with someone of the same gender, though, or you can get into trouble – unless there’s at least a third person with you. You really do not want to set yourself up for trouble in that way. But, for sure, the best way to do this is to do it with someone else.
Every time you feel overwhelmed, every time you feel guilty, every time you feel like this is just too much, like your whole body is tightening up, step away for a while. Take a breath. Do something that is relaxing. I like to do art and I like to journal. I like to take a walk. Walks are great during this time.
And remember, this is not about you doing the work to get those rocks out of the wound. It’s allowing God to start cleaning out that wound, cleaning out your heart. Sometimes if you start looking at the condition of your heart, you’ll see it’s dried up and it’s black and it doesn’t even look like a heart. But when you start looking at these things, you allow God to bring healing to some really deep places and your heart starts to look real and starts to pump and life starts coming in.
Step 8 feels really difficult, but it’s like all of the other steps: there’s a reason for it. I can’t heal if I am walking around in shame. Guilt I can deal with more easily because, if I’ve done something wrong, I can correct it and I can get rid of the guilt. But shame says I don’t think I’m worth anything and that’s deep. This step allows me to really look at those lies and say, “Those are lies!” Yes, I’ve done some things in my life that I am not proud of, but no more. I’m going to look realistically at a lot of things and I’m going to become willing to make amends for all them.
I’m not even going to set up the situation for making amends. I’m going to allow God to do it. I’m going to believe there’s a God who cares about me and who can restore me to sanity. Who can literally bring me into a place of healing. If he can do all this, he can set up the right time where amends happen. I don’t have to set it up. I don’t have to do it. I just have to be aware that he will because I’ve given him permission. I’ve given God – my higher power – permission to do this healing, to arrange for these amends, to create opportunities for this forgiveness to happen.
And they will happen. Like when my mom sat behind me while I was working on the computer and shared with me some of the tragedy of her childhood. When she finished, she asked, “Do you think that affected me?” I wanted to sob. I wanted to hold her and say “I am so sorry.” And all the resentment and all of the anger and all of the times I thought, “you owe me!” all melted away. I just wanted to say to her, “Please forgive me, I had no idea.”
That’s often what we’ll feel when we finally get to Step 9 where we’ll make amends. We’ll start to understand everything that’s happened. We’ll start to understand that, even though we’re angry and abused or feeling depressed or isolated or unloved or walking around with shame or guilt or addictions, that’s not who we are. I can no longer identify this as who I am. I can say this is a behavior that has happened, this is a relationship that went horribly wrong, this is one who I need to forgive. I can do all that kind of stuff, but I can no longer define myself in that way. I’m going to allow God to define me.
And these lists will help you do that. This step is actually such a gift. But please don’t forget the previous steps. You’ve given God permission to do this for you. You’ve given this over to God. You are willing and able to do this because you have a higher power who will restore all things in his time. And man, his time is perfect. It’s perfect.
Good luck with this one.