“Made Direct Amends to Such People Wherever Possible, Except When to do So Would Injure Them, or Others”
Step Nine completes the forgiveness process that began in Step Four, and fulfills our requirement to reconcile with others. In this Step, we clear our garden of the dead leaves – we wake up and discard the old habits that are troublesome to us. We are ready to face our faults, to admit the degree of our wrongs, and to ask for and extend our forgiveness. Accepting responsibility for the harm done can be a humbling experience because it forces us to admit the effect we’ve had on others.
The qualities we need in order to work Step Nine effectively are available from our Higher Power. We receive the judgment and careful sense of timing, courage and stamina we need to accomplish this task. As we become more courageous, it will be easier and safer to talk honestly about our past behavior, and admit to others that we have caused them harm.
Making amends helps release us from many of the resentments of our past. We achieve serenity in our lives by seeking forgiveness from those we have harmed, and by making restitution where necessary. Without forgiveness, the resentments will continue to undermine our growth. Making amends releases us from guilt, and promotes freedom and health in mind and body.
Some people in our lives feel bitter towards us. Others feel threatened by us and resent our changed behavior. We can pray about these people, and ask that our Higher Powers wisdom become known to us. God gives us the discernment to consider the appropriateness of facing these people directly. If we are to forgive ourselves completely, we must first acknowledge the pain that others have endured because of our actions. We can only pray that God will prepare their hearts to receive our amends.
Some stumbling blocks appear in Step Nine. We may procrastinate by telling ourselves, “the time is not yet right”. We may delay by finding excuses to avoid facing those we have harmed. We must be honest with ourselves, and not procrastinate because of fear. Courage is an important requirement for the successful completion of this step. The very spirit of Step Nine is contained in our decision to make restitution, and in our readiness to accept the consequences of our past.
Another delaying tactic is the temptation to let “bygones be bygones”. We rationalize that our past is behind us, that there is no need to stir up more trouble by bringing up issues from the past. We fantasize that amends for past misdeeds are unnecessary, that all we have to do is change our current behavior. It is true that some of our past behaviors may be laid to rest without direct confrontation. Being supported by others during this leg of our journey enables us to face the people and issues on our amends list. Our improved life, filled with peace and serenity, is closely connected to our being able to confront the fears and resentments of our past.
In order to complete Step Nine, we need to review our list from Step Eight and decide on the appropriate method to make each amend. Most situations will require direct contact, although some may be handled by simply changing our behavior. Other amends may need to be done indirectly due to circumstances beyond our control. Whichever alternative we choose, it is important that the process of making amends be done when we are read, and be as complete as possible.
“MADE DIRECT AMENDS TO SUCH PEOPLE WHEREVER POSSIBLE”
We make direct amends to people who are readily accessible, and who can be approached when we are ready. These people include family members, creditors, co-workers, and other’s to whom we owe an amend. They can be friends, enemies, or people with whom we do business.
As part of making the amend, we must try to repair, to the best of our ability, the damage that has been done. The other persons response may be surprising to us, especially if our amend is accepted. We may wonder why we waited so long to resolve the conflict.
There are situations that prevent us from making direct personal contact. These may involve people who are no longer accessible to us, or who are deceased. In these cases, indirect amends can satisfy our need for reconciliation. These amends are accomplished through prayer or by writing a letter, as if we were communicating with the absent person. The important thing is that we make contact necessary for fulfilling our need to make an amend. We also can make amends by performing a kindness for someone that we don’t know, but is connected in some way to the person whom we have harmed.
“EXCEPT WHEN TO DO SO WOULD INJURE THEM OR OTHERS”
Step Nine provides for those people to whom we can make only partial restitution because complete disclosure could cause harm them or others. These people may include spouses, ex-partners, former business associates, or friends. We must analyze the harm they would suffer if complete disclosure were made. This is especially true in cases of infidelity. In such situations, irreparable damage could occur to all parties if a direct amend were made. Even if the matter must be discussed, we should avoid bringing harm to third parties. Concentrating sincere affection and attention on persons with whom we had made loving commitments can make amends for infidelity.
There are situations where amends could result in serious consequences. In cases involving potential loss of employment, imprisonment, or alienation from one’s family, we need to weigh the consequences carefully. If we delay our amends merely out of fear for others, or ourselves we will ultimately be the ones who suffer. In these situations, we can seek outside guidance from a counselor, minister, or close friend to decide how to proceed. Otherwise, we will delay our growth, and also experience stagnation in our progress toward building a new and healthier life.
There are amends that require deferred action. It is wise to seek counsel in situations where deferred action is required. It is seldom advisable to abruptly approach an individual who still suffers deeply from injustices that we have done. In situations where our own pain is still deeply imbedded, patience might be the wise choice. Timing is important. Our ultimate goals are personal growth and reconciliation. Recklessness and haste might create further injury.
As we have learned, certain situations require special consideration and timing. It is better to proceed slowly and be complete with the amend, rather than hurry and cause more damage. Here, God can be a great source of aid and comfort. We need to be constantly aware that our Higher Powers presence is with us now, and will continue to be with us on our journey. Others may not understand or support our amends process, but God stands ready to help see us through this.
To help in making the amend, take time to pray and meditate, then prepare a schedule, listing the persons to contact, what you will say, how you will say it, and when you will say it. Writing letters and making phone calls are acceptable ways of making amends if face-to-face contact is not possible. Sometimes, meeting in person may not be the most desirable approach. The important thing is to make the amend before it is too late. Successful amends will improve relationships with those we have harmed, and promote better relationships with others.
When working this step, we need to distinguish between amends and apologies. Apologies are appropriate; however, they are not substitutes for making amends. A person can apologize for being late for work, but until the behavior is corrected, an amend cannot be made. It is important to apologize when necessary, but it is more important to commit to changing the unacceptable behavior.
Occasional emotional and spiritual relapses are to be expected, and should be dealt with promptly. If not, they will block our ability to make successful amends. When these relapses occur, we must accept them as signals that we are not working the program effectively. Perhaps we have turned away from God by not praying daily and we need to return to Step Three. We may have eliminated something from our inventory and need to return to Step Four. Or, we may be unwilling to relinquish a self-defeating behavior, and need to return to Step Six.
Steps Eight and Nine help us repair the past. Through these steps, we take responsibility for causing injury to others, and make restitution where necessary. We have a chance to redeem ourselves for past misdeeds by making amends, and we look forward to a healthy and rewarding future life. We are now able to rebuild our self-esteem, achieve peaceful relations with others and ourselves and live in harmony with our own personal world and our Higher Power.
Direct Amends: Direct amends are amends we make personally to those we have harmed. We schedule appointments, or plan to meet personally with them. If physical distance is a problem, we can call them on the phone or write a letter. The amend includes sharing with them that we are in a program that requires us to make amends. We request permission to make amends to them, then we share our amends without blaming them or others.
Indirect Amends: Indirect amends are non-personal amends that we make to those we have harmed. These include amends to those who are deceased, whose location is unknown, or who is inaccessible for another reason. We can make indirect amends to these people through letters that are not mailed, through prayer to God, or by doing a kindness to someone else, such as a family member of the person we had harmed.
Amends to Self: The one person whom we have often harmed the most, is ourselves. The amends process would not be complete without taking time to set things right with ourselves. The best way to accomplish this is to write a letter of amends to ourselves, and then read it while sitting in front of a mirror.