RA offers hope, sanity, and recovery, especially to those who, despite their best efforts, have yet to find full recoveries, no matter what their problems or behaviors may be and their family and friends.
 Part 2: Formally Going Through Steps One through Eight
8. Formally Going Through Step Eight


“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

1. We're now going to formally go through Step Eight.

2. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 35, in the top paragraph, it says:

“Now you need more action, without which you will find that ‘Faith without works is dead.' Look at steps eight and nine. You have a list of all persons you have harmed and to whom you are willing to make complete amends. You made it when you took inventory.”

3. That's the entire discussion of the Eighth Step in the Big Book!

4. This tells us that the first part of Step Eight is the simple act of making a list. This is the same list of people, places, things, institutions, etc., that you made as you did your inventory.

5. As part of formally going through Step Eight, we are simply going to transfer that list onto your Eighth STEP WORKSHEET, for use in this Step.

6. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 35, in the second paragraph, starting at the end of the fifth line, it says:

“At the moment you are trying to put your own life in order. But this is not an end in itself. Your real purpose is to fit yourself to be of maximum service to God and the people about you."

7. We need to keep this Step in perspective. It is only a part of the process that is designed to stop our harmful behavior. At this point, during the process of putting our lives in order, we should not lose sight of the real purpose of the program. We find the permanent recovery that this program promises by working all Twelve Steps so we can be of maximum service to God and the people about us.

8. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 6, in the sixth paragraph, Bill Wilson shares how he was taken through what is now called the Eighth Step:

“My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.”

9. Bill made a list, not only of the people he had hurt, but also of those toward whom he felt resentment.

10. At this point, it does not matter if you've harmed someone or if they've harmed you. Now is not the time to edit, to eliminate, or to debate whether it's appropriate or inappropriate to list someone or something: that will be done as part of the Ninth and Tenth Steps. All those that you have harmed, resent, or have anger toward should be listed. If it came to mind as you did your inventory, then it should also be included in this Step. This list is the basis of your Eighth Step.

11. Please don't worry at this point about HOW to make amends. All the details of how to say it and how to do it will be covered in the Ninth Step. The first part of the Eighth Step is simply making a list.

12. As with the other steps, Step Eight does not have to be done perfectly. As we live in the Tenth Step, we make up any deficiencies in the Eighth Step. The day we recognize that an amends needs to be made to someone, we ask to become willing to make amends as part of the Tenth Step.

13. While we do need to be willing to approach the people we have hurt, and who have hurt us, we do not have to forgive anyone to make amends.

14. Forgiveness is not a prerequisite for making amends. It is an ideal, a goal we can pray to eventually reach. It comes as a result of our attempts to live a spiritual life, of working the Twelve Steps.

15. One of R.A.'s members shares:

"The pain and anger I felt toward someone who had hurt me, caused me to totally reject the thought of making amends for the harm I, myself, had caused while not well."

16. For some of us, the reluctance to forgive was the result of a misunderstanding. We thought we had to like someone in order to forgive him or her. This is not necessarily so. We had not learned, or had forgotten the very specific spiritual process that the pioneers had used in order to let go of their resentments.

17. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 30, this process is shared. In the third full paragraph, starting at the end of the second line, it says:

“You will begin to see that the world and its people really dominate you. In your present state, the wrongdoing of others, fancied or real, has power to actually kill you. How shall you escape? You see that these resentments must be mastered, but how? You cannot wish them away any more than alcohol.

"This is our course: realize at once that the people who wrong you are spiritually sick. Though you don't like their symptoms and the way these disturb you, they, like yourself, are sick, too. Ask God to help you show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that you would cheerfully grant a friend who has cancer. When a person next offends, say to yourself 'This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.'

"Never argue. Never retaliate. You wouldn't treat sick people that way. If you do, you destroy your chance of being helpful. You cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show you how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”

18. We don't have to forgive in order to make our amends. Forgiveness may, however, help us to become WILLING to make amends, and equally important, may help us to forgive ourselves for allowing ourselves to be hurt.

19. As an aid in understanding the process of forgiveness, we are going to read, from a purely historical perspective, from one of the books they used to read in the early days of program, The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox.

20. In Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers (A.A.'s biography of its co-founder), on page 151, it says:

“As soon as men in the hospital could begin to focus their eyes they got a copy of Sermon on the Mount.

21. R.A. neither endorses nor opposes the contents of this book, but some of these concepts help us to understand what the pioneers were trying to accomplish as they wrote the program of recovery as detailed in the Twelve Steps.

22. The second part of this book is a dissertation on the Lord's Prayer. The chapter "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" has some helpful information.

23. Let us pause for a moment to note that while this book does speak of Jesus, the concepts of forgiveness in this book are universal. The pioneers of the program read this book as part of their recovery. We don't want to insult anyone or cause any conflict. It may be appropriate for you to replace each mention of “Jesus” with “God” or “Spirit,” to make it easier for you to relate.

24. Our Twelve Step program is not a religious program. One of the reasons they stopped using The Sermon On The Mount was because of its references to a specific understanding of the Deity. The Big Book, and our program, talk of God as YOU have now come to understand Him. The name you give to your Higher Power does not matter.

25. There are several versions of The Sermon On The Mount. Each version has different page numbers. The page numbers we are giving are from the versions we have used in R.A. for many years.

26. If you have a copy of this book, please turn to page 186 (page 171 in the trade paperback version, or the fourth page of the chapter "Forgive Us Our Trespasses" in other versions). Beginning in the middle of the second paragraph, it says:

“Who would be so insane as to endeavor to seek the Kingdom of God without desiring to be relieved of his own sense of guilt.  No one, we may believe.  And so we see that we are trapped in the inescapable position that we cannot demand our own release before we have released our brother.

"The forgiveness of others is the vestibule of Heaven, and Jesus knew it, and has led us to the door.  You must forgive everyone who has ever hurt you if you want to be forgiven yourself; that is the long and the short of it.  You have to get rid of all resentment and condemnation of others, and, not least, of self-condemnation and remorse.  You have to forgive others, and having discontinued your own mistakes, you have to accept the forgiveness of God for them too, or you cannot make any progress.  You have to forgive yourself, but you cannot forgive yourself sincerely until you have forgiven others first.  Having forgiven others, you must be prepared to forgive yourself too, for to refuse to forgive oneself is only spiritual pride.  "And by that sin fell the angels."  We cannot make this point too clear to ourselves; we have got to forgive.  There are few people in the world who have not at some time or other been hurt, really hurt, by someone else; or been disappointed, or injured, or deceived, or misled.  Such things sink into the memory where they usually cause inflamed and festering wounds, and there is only one remedy—they have to be plucked out and thrown away.  And the one and only way to do that is by forgiveness.

"Of course, nothing in all the world is easier than to forgive people who have not hurt us very much.  Nothing is easier than to rise above the thought of a trifling loss.  Anybody will be willing to do this, but what the Law of Being requires of us is that we forgive not only these trifles, but the very things that are so hard to forgive that at first it seems impossible to do it at all.  The despairing heart cries, "It is too much to ask.  That thing meant too much to me.  It is impossible.  I cannot forgive it."  But the Lord's Prayer makes our own forgiveness from God, which means our escape from guilt and limitation, dependent upon just this very thing.  There is no escape from this, and so forgiveness there must be, no matter how deeply we may have been injured, or how terribly we have suffered.  It must be done.

"If your prayers are not being answered, search your consciousness and see if there is not someone whom you have yet to forgive.  Find out if there is not some old thing about which you are very resentful.  Search and see if you are not really holding a grudge (it may be camouflaged in some self-righteous way) against some individual, or some body of people, a nation, a race, a social class, some religious movement of which you disapprove perhaps, a political party, or what-not.  If you are doing so, then you have an act of forgiveness to perform, and when this is done, you will probably make your demonstration.  If you cannot forgive at present, you will have to wait for your demonstration until you can, and you will have to postpone finishing your recital of the Lord's Prayer too, or involve yourself in the position that you do not desire the forgiveness of God.

"Setting others free means setting yourself free, because resentment is really a form of attachment.  It is a Cosmic Truth that it takes two to make a prisoner; the prisoner—and a jailer.  There is no such thing as being a prisoner on one's own account.  Every prisoner must have a jailer, and the jailer is as much a prisoner as his charge.  When you hold resentment against anyone, you are bound to that person by a cosmic link, a real, though mental chain.  You are tied by a cosmic tie to the thing that you hate.  The one person perhaps in the whole world whom you most dislike is the very one to whom you are attaching yourself by a hook that is stronger than steel.  Is this what you wish?  Is this the condition in which you desire to go on living?  Remember, you belong to the thing with which you are linked in thought, and at some time or other, if that tie endures, the object of your resentment will be drawn again into your life, perhaps to work further havoc.  Do you think that you can afford this?  Of course, no one can afford such a thing; and so the way is clear.  You must cut all such ties, by a clear and spiritual act of forgiveness.  You must loose him and let him go.  By forgiveness you set yourself free; you save your soul.  And because the law of love works alike for one and all, you help to save his soul too, making it just so much easier for him to become what he ought to be.

"But how, in the name of all that is wise and good, is the magic act of forgiveness to be accomplished, when we have been so deeply injured that, though we have long wished with all our hearts that we could forgive, we have nevertheless found it impossible; when we have tried and tried to forgive, but have found the task beyond us.

"The technique of forgiveness is simple enough, and not very difficult to manage when you understand how.  The only thing that is essential is WILLINGNESS to forgive.  Provided you desire to forgive the offender, the greater part of the work is already done.  People have always made such a bogey of forgiveness because they have been under the erroneous impression that to forgive a person means that you have to compel yourself to like him.  Happily this is by no means the case—we are not called upon to like anyone whom we do not find ourselves liking spontaneously, and, indeed, it is quite impossible to like people to order.  You can no more LIKE to order than you can hold the winds in your fist, and if you endeavor to coerce yourself into doing so, you will finish by disliking or hating the offender more than ever.  People used to think that when someone had hurt them very much, it was their duty, as good Christians, to pump up, as it were, a feeling of liking for him; and since such a thing is utterly impossible, they suffered a great deal of distress, and ended, necessarily, with failure, and a resulting sense of sinfulness.  We are not obliged to like anyone; but we are under a binding obligation to love everyone, love, or charity as the Bible calls it, meaning a vivid sense of impersonal good will.  This has nothing directly to do with the feelings, though it is always FOLLOWED, sooner or later, by a wonderful feeling of peace and happiness.

"The method of forgiving is this:  Get by yourself and become quiet.  Repeat any prayer or treatment that appeals to you, or read a chapter of the Bible.  Then quietly say, "I fully and freely forgive X (mentioning the name of the offender); I loose him and let him go.  I completely forgive the whole business in question.  As far as I am concerned, it is finished forever.  I cast the burden of resentment upon the [Absolute Spiritual Truth] within me.  He is free now, and I am free too.  I wish him well in every phase of his life.  That incident is finished.  The [Absolute Spiritual] Truth has set us both free.  I thank God."  Then get up and go about your business.  On no account repeat this act of forgiveness, because you have done it once and for all, and to do it a second time would be tacitly to repudiate your own work.  Afterward, whenever the memory of the offender or the offense happens to come into your mind, bless the delinquent briefly and dismiss the thought.  Do this, however many times the thought may come back.  After a few days it will return less and less often, until you forget it altogether.  Then, perhaps after an interval, shorter or longer, the old trouble may come back to memory once more, but you will find that now all bitterness and resentment have disappeared, and you are both free with the perfect freedom of the children of God.  Your forgiveness is complete.  You will experience a wonderful joy in the realization of the demonstration.”

27. As with all our other suggested literature, we recommend that you read this entire book to put this passage into context. This book, copyrighted in 1934, is still in print, published by Harper Collins, and is available at bookstores or online. This book is a valuable document that helps us to understand where the pioneers were, and what they were going through, as they detailed the Twelve Step program of recovery.

28. One of R.A.'s members shares:

"This process really worked for me. This process allowed my relationship with my brother to heal, even though I still do not like him, or what he did. For the first time in my life, I've been able to give him a hug. This process from The Sermon On The Mount has resulted in a dramatic attitude change toward my brother. We've now been able to help each other through some painful periods."

29. Another one of R.A.'s members shares her experience:

"I lost thirty-five thousand dollars because of the actions of the person I was in business with. Now, the relationship has been healed. I still don't like him, but I no longer have the anger and resentment that I once had, the anger and resentment that I had used as a reason for hurting myself and others. This process has also worked for me."

30. At this point, forgiveness is merely an aid in the process of becoming willing to make amends. Forgiveness is the ideal we pray to grow toward.

31. However, the act of forgiving must not be confused with the act of making direct amends. We make amends as a part of the Ninth Step, not here in the Eighth. Remember that the Ninth Step calls for making DIRECT amends, not the indirect amends of simply forgiving.

32. As we read earlier in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, Bill Wilson shared how he "made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment.”

33. Just like Bill you are now going to make a list, not only of the people you have hurt, but also of those toward whom you feel resentment.

34. Please open R.A.'s Step Presentation Workbook to page 16 and look at the columns labeled Step Eight on R.A.'S STEP WORKSHEET “A.”

35. In the column labeled WILLING, using the resentment list from Column #1 of your inventory, you are going to write down every person, place, institution, etc., to whom you are WILLING to make amends.

36. It is suggested that you may want to make your own name the first name on your list, for rarely have we hurt anyone as much as we've hurt ourselves.

37. We begin to make amends to ourselves by doing what we need to do to get well, in other words, by working all of the Steps.

38. In the right column, you are going to list those to whom you are, for whatever reason, not willing to make amends.

39. If you are willing to make amends to someone for some things, but not for others, you can list that name in both columns.

40. At this point, please don't worry about how you will actually make these amends.

41. At this point, don't debate whether or not you will actually need to make amends to these people.

42. We are simply making a list. A list of those to whom you are, at this moment, either willing, or not willing to make amends. At this point do not consider the Ninth Step. At this point only consider Column #1 on page 9 in R.A.'s Step Presentation Workbook.

43. If you need more room, you can use another piece of paper or just double up on your worksheet.

44. You will now have 5 minutes to write your list.

45. You should only spend approximately 5 minutes writing your list.

————————————Approximately 5 minutes later————————————

46. We are now going to repeat the same process, using Column #9 from your inventory rather than Column #1. Column #1 was the list of those whom we resent. Column #9 is the list of those whom we have hurt.

47. On R.A.'S STEP WORKSHEET “A,” in the left column, the one labeled WILLING, you are going to write down the name of each person, place, institution, etc., who you have hurt, and to whom you are now WILLING to make amends.

48. In the right column, you are going to list those to whom you are, at this moment, NOT WILLING, to make amends.

49. If the same name is on both lists, you only need to write it once.

50. If you are willing to make amends for some things, but not for others, you can list that name in both columns.

51. Additional names that might not have been in your inventory can sometimes be found by considering the list of character defects from the inventory.

52. You can also add any additional names you may have from your inventory, or simply from your memory.

53. When you are finished, the names of all those who may have harmed you—in other words, everyone you resent—and the names of everyone that you've harmed—everyone from your inventory list—should be listed in one, or both, of these columns.

54. You will now have 5 minutes to write your list.

55. You should only spend approximately 5 minutes filling out your list.

————————————Approximately 5 minutes later————————————

56. Please remember that it's impossible to do this step perfectly. Any names that you don't remember now, you can add when they come to mind as you do your Tenth Step.

57. All of the steps involve a mental process, an attitude change, demonstrated by a willingness to go from saying “No, never!” to “yes” or “maybe.”

58. In other words, as we previously read on page 108, in the 12 & 12, “This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop crying out ‘No, never!'”

59. The second part of this step involves this same mental process, an attitude change from simply being willing to make a list, to actually becoming willing to make amends to those we have listed.

60. If you are willing to make amends to those people, places and things, etc., that you listed in the column labeled “Willing,” then circle the “yes” at the bottom of the column.

61. If you are not circling “yes” for the column labeled “Willing,” then those names should be in the “Not Willing” column.

62. With the column labeled “Not Willing,” using this same mental process, if you can say you will be able to make these amends at some point in the future, if you can say, “Yes, I'm going to be willing to make amends to those people,” you can now circle “yes.”

63. Can you recognize that at some point, maybe not right now, maybe not next week or next month, or even in the next five or ten years, but at some point, because R.A. suggests that in order to get well, and to stay well permanently, you will need to make these amends? If you can picture that in order to save your own life, you may, at some point, be willing to make these amends, then circle “maybe.”

64. If you can't circle “yes” or “maybe,” you may be able to see in the example of Doctor Bob that he did not stop drinking until he finally took action on his Ninth Step. It is unreasonable for us to expect that anybody, including ourselves, can stop hurting ourselves or others without going through the entire process.

65. In A.A. Comes of Age, starting with the last paragraph on the bottom of page 70, Bill tells us the result of a trip Dr. Bob decided to go on a few weeks after they met:

“So he went to the Atlantic City Medical Convention and nothing was heard of him for several days. Then one morning his office nurse called up and said, ‘He is over here at my place. My husband and I picked him off the railroad station platform at about four A.M. Please come over and see what you can do.'

“We got Bob back home and into bed, and right then we made an alarming discovery. He had to perform a certain operation that only he could do. The deadline was just three days away; he simply had to do the job himself; and here he was, shaking like a leaf. Could we get him sober in time? Anne and I took turns around the clock trying to taper the old boy off. Early on the morning of the operation he was almost sober. I had slept in the room with him. Glancing across toward his bed, I saw that he was wide awake but still shaking. I'll never forget the look he gave me as he said, ‘Bill, I am going to go through with it.' I thought he meant the operation. ‘No,' he said, ‘I mean this thing we've been talking about.'

“Anne and I drove him to the hospital at nine o'clock. I handed him a bottle of beer to steady his nerves so he could hold the knife, and he went in. We returned to the house and sat down to wait. After what seemed an endless time, he phoned; all had gone well. But after that he didn't come home for hours. Despite the awful strain, he had left the hospital, got into his car, and commenced to visit creditors and others he had harmed by his behavior. That was June 10, 1935. To the time of his death fifteen years later, Dr. Bob never took another drink of alcohol.

“Next day he said, ‘Bill, don't you think that working on other alcoholics is terribly important? We'd be much safer if we got active, wouldn't we?' I said, ‘Yes, that would be just the thing.”

66. Dr. Bob spent two and a half years in program, going to meetings, doing everything those good people told him to do, reading the Good Book, affiliating with a church, and he still went home and got drunk almost every night. Not just once in awhile, but almost every night.

67. It wasn't until a month after he met Bill Wilson, after two and a half years in program, that he finally became desperate enough to make amends. That was the day he took his last drink. It's also important to note that the very next day he started intensively working with others.

68. If just wanting to stop hurting ourselves or others had been enough, we would never have come to a Twelve Step program. If somebody could do it for us, we would not be here. It is the process that produces the desired result for us, and it is a specific Twelve Step process. If you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, can you picture being willing to make amends to these people? Maybe, with this realization, if you've circled “no,” you can switch it to “yes” or “maybe.”

69. Even if you haven't been able to circle “yes” or “maybe,” please continue on with us. At some point, going through the rest of the steps may help you come to realize that since your life depends on it, you will need to have that attitude change. Perhaps your working on the rest of the steps, as best you can, by completing R.A.'s Step Presentation, will bring about that attitude change.

70. If you have circled “yes” or “maybe” in each column, you have now done the entire Eighth Step. You have made a list of those you have harmed, and have become willing to make amends to them all. That is all this step entails.

71. Next, we will discuss Steps Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. We will do this by going back to R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. Beginning with the first paragraph on page 35, we will again start reading aloud and then discussing each paragraph.


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