We welcome guest blogger Cynthia R, who writes about Steps 9 and 10 of the Twelve Steps which Richard Rohr discusses in his just-released book, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Breathing Under Water is available with a free online study guide.
Step 9: Made amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
At the bottom of page 83 of Alcoholics Anonymous: Big Book begins the list of what is commonly known around AA tables as “The Promises.” Early in my recovery I made note that these very enticing “rewards” were mentioned immediately following Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
I can’t say that they were the main motivation for me to work Step 9, but I will admit that The Promises inspired me to move out of the fearful lethargy which allowed me to make excuses away from this Step instead of toward the direct amends. I have no way of knowing if Bill W’s intent in writing the Twelve Steps was that they be “taken” or “worked” in order.
I am certain, however, that his hope for all who came to the Program was that they never had to pick up a drink again, one day at a time; and working the Steps not only guarantees success in this effort, but outlines a new way of being in the world that, while sounding “extravagant”—even miraculous—is able to be “fulfilled among us” and “will always materialize if we work for them.”
It so happens that my experience of working Step 9 did flow from having the five previous Inventory Steps under my belt. So much of my healing process was a necessary purging of the guilt and shame I had carried for years even prior to my alcohol abuse.
By the time I had reached this phase, Steps 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 had put me in a position of having reconciled myself to myself, which, therefore, qualified me to reach out, in person, to “make direct amends” with those whom I identified on my Step 8 list.
In Breathing Under Water Richard Rohr calls it “using ‘skillful means’ to both protect our own humanity and to liberate the humanity of others.” Another spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, also captures, for me, the essence of Step 9 when he says, “Unless we have the eyes to see our own belovedness, we cannot see the belovedness of the other.”
Reaching out to make those amends to my family, friends, and other relationships was now possible, and desirable, from this place of peace within my own self.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 10 follows naturally as the most effective way for me to continue on the path of AA’s design for living and deeper healing. Once I reached this level of maturity in sobriety, I was able to, as Richard Rohr states in Breathing Under Water, be “properly detached”—in other words, not be so totally identified with my own “thoughts, feelings, and compulsive patterns of perception.”
Now, instead of immediately judging myself from that place of harsh criticism and blame, I can, as Richard says, “see things in a much more expanded and compassionate way.” From this new “viewing platform,” I stand firmly in my “inherent dignity” where I have the security to “promptly admit” when I am wrong.
The transformative difference in taking Step 10 from this position is that I can courageously admit when I make a mistake, rather than fearfully walking through life believing I AM a mistake!
“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” What a joy to celebrate yet another Promise fulfilled through the practice of Step 10!
PROMISES OF STEP 9
• If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
• We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
• We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
• We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
• No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
• That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
• We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
• Self-seeking will slip away.
• Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
• Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
• We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
• We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
• Are these extravagant promises? We think not.
• They are being fulfilled among us–sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
• They will always materialize if we work for them.
—from the Big Book, pages 83-84.
Cynthia R is sober by the grace of God and the AA Program since 3-17-78.
Franciscan priest Richard Rohr is founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He considers the proclamation of the gospel to be his primary call, and some related themes he addresses include eco-spirituality, Scripture as liberation, non-dual thought, the integration of action and contemplation, peace and justice issues, and male spirituality. Author of numerous books, including Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality. Preparing for Christmas With Richard Rohr: Daily Meditations for Advent, and Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent, he gives retreats and lectures internationally. He is a regular contributing writer for Sojourners and Tikkun magazines. He spoke about Breathing Under Water during a live webcast on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011.
Featured photo © eAlisa