Me Free 8: Payback Time*

We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. – Step 8

In early October, Lynne and I spent a couple of days at Yosemite National Park.  It’s one of our favorite spots. It’s one of your favorite spots, too, but if you haven’t visited you don’t know it yet.  On our way out of the park on our last day, we pulled to the side of the road to take in a closer view of El Capitan, the 3,000-foot-high granite monolith.  Two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another would not reach the top.  Three and a half TransAmerica buildings wouldn’t reach the top, either.  From the ground, it appears to be a completely sheer, vertical wall of rock.  Standing beneath it is like standing in front of the ocean – you suddenly feel very, very small.  We gazed with others in awe.  Initially we didn’t see any climbers, which I thought odd for a Saturday.  We grabbed binoculars and still didn’t see anyone.  With time, however, we were able to see a flash of color against the granite.  Once we saw one, our eyes were able to see others.  We quickly were able to spot 20 or so climbers from our vantage point.  During peak season, as many as 80 will be climbing the face of El Cap.  That experience came flooding back as I began thinking about this step because I think our capacity to recognize harm we have caused others does not come into focus readily.  Rather, it takes time and intention to adjust our gaze in order to see what has been there all along.

Step 8 is not easy because we are not naturally wired to see ourselves accurately.  Over the course of my ministry I have known parents and spouses of alcoholics and drug addicts who lament over the pain they have endured from their loved one.  Heart-wrenching stuff.  I have also had the opportunity to know the offending kids and spouses, too, and was somewhat surprised to discover that they truly had no idea how much pain and suffering their addiction was causing the people who loved them.  One person many years ago told me with great sobriety, “When you’re stuck in the throes of addiction the only person you are thinking about is yourself – you are oblivious to others except whether or not they are in the way of your getting your next fix.”  Step 8 is another opportunity to hit the pause button and do some serious reflection on a painful proposition: list all the ways you knowingly harmed another.  Making amends is Step 9 – all we are asked to do at this point is to become aware.

Since we are all addicted to our own programs for happiness that lead us to hurting others in one way or another, this step is truly for everyone.  It’s interesting that we’re all pretty capable of creating an impressive list of how others have hurt us, yet may come up near empty when we try to identify the ways we’ve hurt others.  To help us along, lets learn from this recovery community video on how to think about this.

Step 8 requires a strong degree of self-awareness, doesn’t it?  Lucky for me, I am pretty self-aware.  My Bachelor’s degree was in Psychology because I wanted to understand myself and humanity as a whole better.  In early adulthood I read lots of introspection-oriented books from both sacred and secular sources.  To become a pastor you have to go through a series of courses that not only teach you about the way we humans work, but are at the same time challenged to work on ourselves as well.  Furthermore, my role has me working with people every week from teaching to leading groups to counseling and more.  All practice on understanding others and inadvertently, myself.  So, I think we can all agree that I must surely be pretty self-aware, yes?  Well, actually, for me to say that I am pretty self-aware is likely the greatest guarantee that I am not.  Research shows, for instance, that those who believe themselves to be evolved to the point of being unbiased toward people different from themselves are most likely to actually be biased (because they’re convinced they simply are not, so why worry about it?).  My hunch is that we all feel pretty evolved. And yet we must wonder if we truly are.

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were among the most learned of their time.  And yet they were apparently blind to the way they were mishandling their faith and responsibilities. So much so that Jesus was remembered as locking horns with them on multiple occasions.  Once they quizzed Jesus on whether or not he knew what was the most important law in the Jewish tradition (out of the 613).  Jesus’ response? “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31 | NLT).  The religious leaders let Jesus know that he had answered correctly.  In other words, they knew the answer – they weren’t on a learning quest.  They knew the answer!  Why, then, did they not live up to it? Why were they known for being harsh and judgmental toward the people they were called to serve?  Why were they known for living lavishly while the poor among them struggled to get by?  Because they, like ourselves, believed themselves to be more self-aware than they actually were.

To prepare astronauts for their long-term visits to the International Space Station, NASA would take a group of 11 of them, drop them off in the wilderness, get them lost, then leave them on their own for three weeks.  According to some of the astronauts, learning to rely on each other for survival in this Wilderness Training Exercise taught them more about themselves and gave them the opportunity to know others on a deeper level than being in other relationships for years.  When your life depends on teamwork, teams work.  You get past pleasantries fairly soon and call people on their bullshit.  Every member learns more about who they really are from the rest of the team whether they want to or not.  The mirror is constantly before them.  CrossWalk’s own Zane Watson spent a summer hiking through the Alaskan Tundra above the arctic circle.  He told me that the team got along pretty well, relying on each other to get to the next drop point where thy could get more food and supplies.  But one team member wasn’t as committed as the rest, and the team definitely let him know.  I’m guessing intense military service has a similar affect.  So does intense humanitarian work. 

The Morning Star Company, known for it’s tomato products, takes self-awareness very seriously, as noted in their official statement on self-management:

     The Morning Star Company was built on a foundational philosophy of Self-Management. We envision an organization of self-managing professionals who initiate communication and coordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers and fellow industry participants, absent directives from others. For colleagues to find joy and excitement utilizing their unique talents and to weave those talents into activities which complement and strengthen fellow colleagues' activities. And for colleagues to take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving our Mission.

To insure a good fit with the company, the founder of Morning Star is known to conduct 3-5 hour interviews with potential team members in their homes!  If welcomed onto the team, the company culture requires each member to become part of an ongoing assessment process whereby everyone evaluates everyone on the team regarding performance.  In that company, there is nowhere to hide.  You will become more self-aware because your team members will make you painfully aware of yourself!  Much more so than good friends, family, or intimate partners who have every reason to think highly of you and let you know it.  I wonder if the religious leaders thought so highly of themselves because they primarily took their cue from each other?  Perhaps they were all members of the mutual admiration society?  Perhaps the reason they grew so tired of Jesus was because his very person – and eventually his teaching – gave them an honest picture of themselves.

Knowing our propensity toward self-aggrandizement, Jesus did some strange things during the last supper with the disciples before he would be arrested and eventually killed within 24 hours.  First, he washed their feet, which made them intimately aware of the fact that Jesus was intimately familiar with them.  They undoubtedly squirmed as he made the rounds with the basin and towel.  Then, a bit later, he gave them a new commandment which provided further clarity on the greatest commandments:

I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

– Jesus (John 13:34 | NLT)

Left to their own imagination, the disciples would likely have found themselves in the same trap as the Jewish leaders, congratulating themselves on a job well done even if it wasn’t.  But with Jesus as the reference point, we have a model to look at to help us determine how well we are loving God with our heart, mind, and soul. And we have an example to follow regarding loving our neighbors as ourselves – and a lifetime of moments where Jesus showed what it meant to love oneself which enables us to love others.

This week, may you take some time to see what has always been before you – like climbers on El Cap.  May you find yourself being quiet enough and mindful enough to discover that there is, in fact, a list longer than you could have imagined apart from such prayerful contemplation.  As pen hits paper, as knees hit floor, may you also find yourself willing to make amends to them all.

Step 8 Questions

How have you hurt yourself by practicing your addiction?

What important relationships did you destroy or damage because of your addictive behaviors?

How much time and energy have your lost from your addictive behaviors? What do you think that you would have done or become had it not been for your addictive behaviors?

Make a list of those that you have possibly harmed by your addictive behaviors. List the effect on them as individuals as well as on your relationship. You can use the page for the List of People to keep track of this list.

Describe any dreams that you have had that relate to making amends to others.

How will you celebrate or how have you celebrated the finishing of step 8?

*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.  Also, look through for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.