Saturday, 7 May 2016

The fabled Step Eight 'never' list

I heard someone say yesterday that it is helpful to divide the Step Eight list into three categories:

  1. Amends I am willing to make now.
  2. Amends I may be willing to make in the future.
  3. Amends I will never be willing to make.
It is perfectly reasonable to identify that one is currently unwilling to make a particular amend (category 2) or that one is so unwilling one cannot conceive of ever being willing (category 3).

This approach, however, is used universally to justify postponing indefinitely a large swathe of amends; I have never heard this approach being presented in conjunction with this instruction from page 76:

If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it comes.

The recognition of unwillingness does not license indolence or postponement; rather, it commands concerted action to remove the blocks through prayer, consultation, reading, and consideration of certain principles, which are these:

If I were owed money by the tax authorities, I would not accept the tax authorities saying, 'We do owe you the money, but we've put you on the "never" list, so you can whistle for it.' Similarly, if you order goods and they are not delivered, you complain, because you have a right to them. In the same vein, you owe people amends; the amends are not an act of uncommon generosity but adherence to the most basic principle of human relations: fairness.

There are valid reasons for postponement, but these must be pragmatic and not related to some pseudo-spiritual notion of waiting 'until God shows me what the right time is' or until 'God gives me the willingness'. True enough, God will give you the willingness, but only on the back of vigorous spiritual action by you (as outlined above), which should take days or weeks, not years.

So, the basic principle is this: are you going to live a moral life, or an immoral life? Are you going to seek out companions and sponsors in AA who will challenge you on the morality of your conduct? Or have you surrounded yourself with people who, themselves deficient in the practice of Steps Eight and Nine, counsel the withholding of amends from people who thoroughly deserve them?

There is furthermore the question of drinking again if one does not complete amends, and the equally pertinent question of remaining trapped in compulsive and other unsavoury behaviours whilst the past remains unresolved.

In sum: do not deny lack of willingness, but resolving the lack of willingness is then your number one priority and the number one focus of your AA action, with comprehensive willingness, as expressed by actually doing one's utmost to make amends, as the imminent objective.

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