"Step 8 was an opportunity to make a plan to clean up the wreckage and rebuild all that could be saved" (p 47, ARP Guidebook).
Step 8 provides us with the opportunity to seek forgiveness for past wrongs. It's a follow-up from the inventory, confession, willingness to turn ourselves over to God, and the humble preparation of asking God to remove our shortcomings. In step 8, we become willing to make restitution to all persons we have harmed.
It sounds intense. It sounds scary. But, fear not! There is no reason to fear. We have God on our side, and seeking repentance is crucial to our coming back to Him. We may feel at first that we have no need to repent--that we are the victim here, and others need to ask us for forgiveness. We've all been there. BUT, we may have been so caught up and focused on others around us (and their wrongs) because of our situations that we may have forgotten to keep ourselves in check too.
Because of my husband's addiction, I became really self-conscious. You know how teenagers are in that egocentric stage where they think everyone is looking at them, talking about them, whispering behind their backs? Well, I hate to say it, but I fell back into teenager mode. Because I always wondered if he was looking at me, wanting me, loving me, I began to question many other people around me. I started questioning everyone' motives and trusting very few people, or only halfway trusting most people.
I hurt some people. Because I was angry and distrusting, I hurt people without even meaning to. Here's an example:
We had some friends in our ward who stopped returning our phone calls. Every time we invited them to spend time with us, they had an excuse not to or didn't even call us back. Eventually, we called them less and less until we stopped trying to hang out with them altogether. I thought, well, they must not really like us. They must not want to be our friends. If they wanted to be our friends, they would put forth the effort of trying to spend time with us. Or they would tell us that they really do want to spend time with us, but it's just a bad time right now. We used to sit by them at church because we were among the few couples in our ward without children. Eventually, we sat by them less and less until we stopped sitting by them at church. We stopped talking to them. Saying hi in the hallway was awkward.
Months later, I finally talked to the wife and asked what happened. I missed them, and I had no idea what happened with our relationship. Also, we were moving soon, and I didn't want to move with hard feelings. Basically, they had been really hurt that we slowly stopped calling or sitting by them at church. I'm sure whatever their reasons were for not returning our calls or never wanting to hang out with us was valid. They didn't want to lose our friendship, though. My egocentrism, however, cost us a valuable friendship in that ward.
I know of more people who were hurt by my actions during the really hard time with my husband. Because I couldn't make him perfect, I expected perfection from myself and others around me. I was impatient and irritable at meaningless things. I had angry, negative thoughts about many people. I possibly even hurt more people than I know...
I've created wreckage, my friends! I've created wreckage in my friendships, in my relationship with my husband, and with myself.
I still create wreckage, and I know I will continue to create wreckage. That is why the Atonement is so beautiful. I can create wreckage and seek forgiveness for it. I can mess up and make mistakes, but as I humble myself and come to God with an honest, sincere heart, it can be healed. It can be made right through the Atonement.
Step 8 says, "Before we could rebuild relationships, we needed to identify the relationships that were damaged." So, I made a list of everyone I had harmed. I wrote about the situations. However, I discovered (as the guidebook says) that I "could not list these people without being distracted by feelings of resentment toward those who had harmed [me]" (p 47). I was able to pray to Heavenly Father and explain my feelings. I could confess everything to Him and seek His guidance as I sought for peace and healing. I studied the parable of the man who was forgiven his debts but needed to forgive others. I started understanding the miracle of the Atonement better than ever before.
Along with my list of people to seek forgiveness, I made a list of people whom I needed to forgive. Some names were on both lists. "People often get caught in terrible cycles of exchanging hurts with others. to break these cycles of mutual resentment, someone has to be willing to forgive" (p 47). I've seen that happening in my marriage, along with other relationships as well.
Writing became a great tool for me to sort out my feelings and experiences so I could figure out what exactly was going on in my head. During this process, I prayed for the desire to forgive. I prayed for forgiveness. I practiced praying for others' welfare. I prayed for those I had a hard time liking. I prayed for those I didn't understand. As I gained compassion, I was able to identify more relationships that needed healing.
When I experienced this step for the first time, I had many relationships that needed healing. I had much healing to experience in general. I still have much healing that needs to take place, but as I read through and practice this step, I can see a pattern to the relationships that need healing. Most of the people who I need to seek forgiveness from are very close to me. Those instances deal mostly with my impatience.
As I've written in the past, I made so much progress when I journeyed through the 12 steps the first time. That progress stuck with me. One of the maintenance steps (the steps that help you maintain your new, spiritually-minded way of life), step 10 is about daily accountability. I did step 10 almost a year ago. Since then, I have been pretty good at keeping myself accountable and promptly admitting my wrongs. I have been fairly good at seeking forgiveness (not perfect). I don't have as many relationships that need healing as I did the first time.
I'm still cleaning up wreckage. There is always wreckage to clean up, for both me and my husband. I'm so grateful for this process. I know without the 12 steps, I would be lost. I wouldn't know where to turn, and I would not know how to deal with things. Part of step 8 is forgiving others, but I'm glad the focus is on seeking forgiveness. I'm glad I know I need to forgive myself. I'm glad I have this road to walk with Christ.
I'm also grateful for the understanding I have reached. I am a victim. But, in some ways, so is my husband. He is a victim of himself. Satan. society. me. The 12 steps have helped me heal, gain perspective, and become more Christlike. Hopefully, my husband won't be a victim of my wrath for much longer. I know eventually, I will find better ways to handle everything than by lashing out.
I'm grateful for the 12 steps. I'm grateful for the journey. I'm grateful for my knowledge.
I'm grateful I have the Atonement to help me clean up the wreckage.