Summary: Step 9 focuses on our actually making amends to those we have harmed through our addictions. This message also focuses on reconciliation.
Twelve Steps To Recovery Part 9
To date in this series we have discussed the first seven steps in the twelve steps to recovery process. We began by admitting that we were powerless over our dependencies and that there was a God greater than ourselves who could restore us to sanity. After reaching that point, in step three we made the decision to turn our lives over to the care of God, a conscious choice that was made freely. In steps four and five we took a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and came to the point of understanding our addictions and confessing them to ourselves, God and to another trusted individual. In step six, after recognizing our addictions for what they were, we came to the point where we were ready to have God remove them and in step seven we humbly asked God to do just that – remove all of our shortcomings. Step seven was the bridge from our focus on our inner self to our outward actions as we enter into step eight. Step eight involved our making a list of those persons that we have harmed through our addictions and work through our willingness to make amends to them when possible. As we begin step number nine, we take action on the list we made in step eight. In step nine we make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. So let’s examine exactly what this means.
I. The Importance of Reconciliation
I cannot over express the importance of reconciliation. Having gone through several situations where friendship was lost and reestablished, I can tell you first hand that the burden of carrying the load of a crumbled relationship can be detrimental to you, emotionally, spiritually and even physically. Although you try to move on with your life, there are moments when you go right back to that relationship and relive the pain of when it ended. Step nine is all about reconciliation. When our addictions have harmed others and we have yet to address that hurt or take accountability for it, the gulf between us and the person harmed is great. However when we take the steps to “come clean” about what we have done, we begin building a bridge that over time will cross that gulf to reconciliation. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:23-24 about reconciliation: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Reconciliation is so important that Jesus said that we should take this action before we come before God or bring our gifts to Him.
Some of us become so focused on our personal failures in recovery that we do not deal with the pain we have suffered at the hands of others. Some of us, on the other hand, focus too much on the ways we have been mistreated and use these as excuses for our behavior. Either approach to past abuse leaves us with emotional baggage that will hinder our progress in recovery. Whether we are focusing what others have done to us or just ignoring the pain that others have caused, it requires a response from us that often leads to our moving deeper within our addictions. Even when we are ignoring our own pain it takes it requires action on our part. Many times we find others things to do to keep our minds occupied so that we do not have to focus on the hurt that lies within us. We have become so used to being a victim and allowing it to dictate our behavior that we cannot imagine stepping forward and to bring about reconciliation. However, what we fail to understand is that forgiving others is an important part of turning our will over to God. Being forgiven for the wrongs we have done to others does not excuse us from our actions or make our actions right. When we forgive others for the wrongs they have committed against us, we do not excuse what they have done, we forgive them. We recognize that we have been hurt unjustly and turn the matter over to God. Likewise, we must also recognize that we have a responsibility to go to the one that we have hurt to make amends. This requires a spirit that is humble, not prideful.
Every one of us at some point in our lives has experienced or will experience some type of brokenness. It could be in our relationship with God because of our sins or in our relationship with others, because of something we do or something they do. When a relationship is broken, it carries an impact that is far reaching. Consider what happens when an engagement is broken off. The engaged couple probably had friends that were “their” friends. When the engagement is broken off, not only is the couple affected, but their friends also. How do they choose which one to support? The same thing happens between families. How many times have you lost contact with a whole family because one member of the family was upset with you? It becomes a battle for everyone. Brokenness tends to weigh us down and can easily lead us back into our addiction. Recovery isn’t complete until all areas of brokenness are mended.