The Steps Step 8

Step 8

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all


How It Works

We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self- appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.
-A.A. Big Book p.76

More about Step 8 in the Big Book


Comments from Web Sites and Publications

Step 8 is the beginning of making amends, of healing the past with others. From the inventory of Step 4, I have a good starting place for making a list of people that I have harmed. I look over my personal inventory and possibly reflect on my life again. I make a list of the people that I have harmed. I can write down thoughts beside each name about what the appropriate amends might be. I then go through the list and make sure I am willing in my heart to make the amends.
- From 12Step.org


Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. Every A.A. has found that he can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his wake. To a degree, he has already done this when taking moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt, and in what ways. This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 77-78


Step Eight is a social housecleaning, just as Step Four was our personal housecleaning. In Step Eight we're setting out to clean up all the bruised relationships and the pockets of guilt, pain, fear, resentment, and sadness that are stored inside, stuck to our shameful past deeds. For this undealt-with material blocks us from loving other people, ourselves, and God in the present.

It's as if God were saying, "Okay, now you want me to take all of your character defects, fine. Then you can be free and serene and the person I want you to be. But first you must see that almost all your troubles involve other people. You've tried to control them one way or the other or fix them; you have guilty or resentful feelings about them; or you have been so preoccupied with yourself and your feelings, dreams, and plans that you have ignored them emotionally and caused them to experience some of their worst fears of being deserted. Now I want you to face what you have done and own your part in hurting each person in your life so you can move into the future I have for you unencumbered by the past and beginning to understand how not to keep repeating the mistakes of that past.
- A Hunger for Healing, p. 135-136


The Eighth Step is not easy; it demands a new kind of honesty about our relations with other people. The Eighth Step starts the procedure of forgiving others and possibly being forgiven by them, forgiving ourselves, and learning how to live in the world. By the time we reach this step, we have become ready to understand rather than to be understood. We can live and let live easier when we know the areas in which we owe amends. It seems hard now, but once we have done it, we will wonder why we did not do it long ago.

...The final difficulty in working the Eighth Step is separating it from the Ninth Step. Projecting about actually making amends can be a major obstacle both in making the list and in becoming willing. We do this step as if there were no Ninth Step. We do not even think about making the amends but just concentrate on exactly what the Eighth Step says which is to make a list and to become willing. The main thing this step does for us is to help build an awareness that, little by little, we are gaining new attitudes about ourselves and how we deal with other people.
- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 8


Step 8 is the more specific person-to-person application of the shame-reduction that was begun in Steps 4 and 5. ...

Implicit in both Steps 8 and 9 is the assumption that we carry a toxic residue of shame from virtually every incident in which we have hurt, rejected, or ignored others. Steps 8 and 9 provide us with the opportunity to reduce this guilt by setting things right again. We should be cautioned, though, that we need to work through and grieve our underlying resentment, hurt, anger, and pain before trying to make amends to those who have also offended us. Otherwise, we are putting a bandage on a festering, cancerous sore, because the toxicity is still there. Only after it has been excised can we release our resentments with a high degree of emotional integrity.
- Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 58,59


We will know we are ready and willing for this step when we can apologize to those who hurt us, when we don't follow the philosophy of "an eye for an eye" and cross off the list those who have gotten revenge or those whom we feel "deserved" our ill treatment. This step is not about judging others. We need to pull back into out humility and learn to replace judgment with attitudes of mercy and forgiveness. Whether our "enemies" ask for it or not, it is our responsibility to forgive them in our hearts and then apologize for our wrongdoing. This is the only attitude that will lead to emotional resolution.

We need to demonstrate a spirit of good will. In this spirit, we assume that no one has harmed us on purpose, that any pain inflicted on us was an accident of circumstance. We give them the benefit of the doubt. It is not our job or our concern to mention their transgressions or faults.

Don't forget to make amends to those from whom you have borrowed money or to whom you owe money. Instead of empty apologies, make payments on your debts...
- The Twelve Step Journal, by Claudette Wassil-Grimm, p. 224-225


Reflecting on all levels of your awareness is very important to a thorough Eighth Step. When making a list of the persons you have harmed, consider the following:

  • The name of the person who has been harmed...
  • Memories of harm done...
  • Thoughts about the harm...
  • Feelings about the harm...
  • Intentions you now have...
  • Amends you can make for the harm caused...
- A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, by Patrick Carnes, p. 159-160


Personal Experiences

In our forums, you can read about how others have worked step 8, or share your own experiences about working step 8. The audio section also has examples of people sharing about how step 8 worked for them.

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