12 Steps: Step Nine
"Made direct amends to those people who have been hurt by our behaviors wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."
Step Nine in the 12 Steps is about more than making amends. It is also about getting free of the guilt and shame of the past. Most of us have a past littered with broken relationships and we either consciously or subconsciously carry a burden of guilt and shame about that.
This journey of faith and recovery, which began at step one, leads us to a new freedom. It is not only a freedom from undesirable behaviors but it is also a freedom from the load of guilt and shame we carry as a consequence of our behaviors.
In step eight you made a list of those who have been hurt by your past actions. Hopefully by now you have taken that list to God and asked for his help in becoming willing to make amends. Have you become willing to take this brave, and usually difficult, step? If you haven't then you have some more praying to do.
This is not an easy step because it isn't just about dealing with ourselves it is about dealing with others, and many times we have so badly burnt the bridges of relationship with them that they don't want to ever see us again. At least that is the way they felt about it when you were still indulging your destructive behaviors. You have changed now and they need to know that.
When it is possible to make amends in a setting that will not cause further damage to those with whom you are mending relationship and with others who are involved with that person, then it is time to make it right.
You must also be aware that just because you are going through the 12 Steps doesn't mean that those you are approaching are able to appreciate that yet. There has been significant damage done in the past and it will probably take some time for those wounds to heal.
Give those with whom you are attempting to make amends the freedom to not be ready to accept your attempts at making it right. Remember this: they are not responding to who you are now, they are responding to who you were. Give them all the time they need to see that you aren't the same person, that by the grace of God you have been changed.
The Scripture we often use when teaching about making amends is, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that you brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer you gift" (Matthew 5;23-24).
There are three parties involved in an offense. There is the offender, the offended and there is God. The offender cannot be right with God until an attempt is made to be right with the one offended. That is what Jesus is talking about.
God not only wants to forgive us for all the wrong we have done, but he also wants to help us forgive ourselves. When we make amends with those we have harmed we go a long ways toward being able to forgive ourselves.
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