Step Eight

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Reading: page 76

All the people on this list should also have appeared on our Step Four list, as we will feel guilt for the harm we have done. As that reading said: “We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory.” This statement echoes that given on page 65 in connection with Step Four, where it says: “We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set matters straight.” If by chance we realized now that we had harmed someone but it did not appear on your Step Four list as well, we take inventory and share it with our sponsors. However, it is worth noting that the reverse is not necessarily true — not all the names on our Step Fours are in our Step Eight list. We haven’t harmed everyone that we resented. If we did this we would have an absurdly long list.

Strangely, many of us did have a tendency to put too many people down. This was a result of our extreme self-centeredness, which lead us to believe that we have had a huge impact on lives of those we have had contact with. With this in mind, if we refer back to our Step Four when composing our Step Eight list we should be careful not to let this happen. In fact, to guard against this many work directly from memory and make a fresh list.

As we have already mentioned, the Step Eight list is generally much shorter than the Step Four list. A simple list of the names of those we had harmed would satisfy the requirements of this step. However, we found it extremely helpful to include two extra columns for the following reasons: it is not always clear whether or not we have harmed people. In order to be able to be certain that the person we put on our list should be there, we must have a clear picture of two things: what we did, and the effect that our action (or negligence) had on the other person. The easiest way to see this is to write down what we have done. The easiest way for us to consider how others were affected by our actions it to try to consider how we ourselves would feel if we had been on the receiving end of our actions. Things are usually clearer when we see them in black and white. For example, some of us wrongly believed we have harmed everyone that ever got even slightly annoyed with us. This is not so – causing someone to dislike us doesn’t necessarily mean that we caused them harm. Sometimes we just have to accept that we have done things that give people reason to dislike us.

There is another reason for the inclusion of the other columns. When we come to make amends in Step Nine we must have a clear picture of the harm we are going to repair. Writing it down as shown below is the best way we have found of providing the necessary information.

Responsive image

A number of us found it very difficult to fill out this third column. For us, consideration of others rarely got beyond being nice to people to try to manipulate them into doing what we wanted. We were not used to considering how others might feel about themselves as a consequence of our actions. When we finally did this, it really gave us a sense of the harm we had caused and perhaps even giving us some compassion for them. It helped to give us the willingness to repair the damage we had done.

The list of harms is likely to include different sorts of harm:

• Things we have failed to do (sins of omission): these can be of a general nature, eg “I was not a loving enough son”; or quite specific: “I didn’t speak to my brother, Fred, for two years because he borrowed my car without asking me first and then crashed it.” Again these could be general or specific.

• Things we have done (sins of commission): lying, cheating, stealing, hitting, angry abuse/swearing, one-night stands. Again these can be general descriptions of behavior or descriptions of specific incidents.

• All debts

• All crimes committed major and minor (fare dodging, fiddling expenses, for example).

There are no set phrases to put into the final column: we used everyday language. However, it is unlikely that banal phrases such as: “fed up”, “pissed off” “unhappy” are appropriate. We don’t harm someone just by making them fed up. If we have harmed someone the language used will indicate a much stronger emotional reaction — bitterly disappointed, lonely, abandoned, hated, unworthy of love.

If we are still not willing enough to make amends, then we pray for the willingness: “If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes.” {p76}

Note: we do not place ourselves on the list. There is not one single reference to anyone putting themselves on the list in the Big Book, nor is there any reference to anyone making amends to themselves in Step Nine. All the language refers to people other than ourselves. For example on page 76: “Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past.”; and“As we look over the list of business acquaintances and friends we have hurt…” {p76}. The whole spirit of these two steps is one of thought for others not of trying to be “kind to ourselves” as people sometimes describe this — as the Big Book says on page 84 in reference to the general effect of the program:“We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.”