Step 9 of 12: Amends

Basically, one who is obsessed with his own inner unity is failing to face his disunion with God and other men.

--Thomas Merton

Step 9: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The 12 Steps are not theoretical. To be transformed by them, we have to live them. Step 9 is the logical consequence of deliberately making a list of those we've harmed and becoming willing to make amends. If Step 8 was about recalibrating, this is about reconstructing. Our ultimate purpose, once we have honestly identified the people we have harmed, is to repair and rebuild relationships. These are people who have experienced our worst, often close friends and family.

This step requires wisdom. If not done correctly, we can make matters worse. We often gain wisdom in life from making mistakes, but Step 9 is not a learning exercise to gain wisdom. This is our humble attempt to own our behavior, to rectify it and ask for forgiveness. We want to get it right, so we should seek advice on if, when, and how to do this and what to say.

This step also requires empathy. We need to carefully consider what people need to hear and should hear. Our words must be honest, but truth is not just factual. It's a combination of text and context, style and intent. With that in mind, it may be appropriate to write out our apologies but never send the letter, because to do so would only cause more injury.

As challenging as Step 9 is to complete, I've never encountered anyone who regretted it, even if the response was not what he/she hoped.

We'll take a short break to collect our thoughts and then tackle Steps 10-12.