Addiction Recovery Program - A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing
Step 8: Seeking Forgiveness
KEY PRINCIPLE: Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them.
Before our recovery, our addictive lifestyles were like a tornado full of destructive energy that cut through our relationships, leaving much wreckage behind. Step 8 was an opportunity to make a plan to clean up the wreckage and rebuild all that could be saved. When we felt the healing power of the Savior’s mercy as we worked on step 7, we felt eager to reach out to others and to mend broken relationships. We learned, however, that impulsively rushing to make amends without taking time for prayer and perhaps counsel from a trusted adviser, such as a bishop or other priesthood leader, could be as detrimental as not making amends. Step 8 was an assurance against harming others when we began contacting them in step 9.
Before we could rebuild relationships, we needed to identify the relationships that were damaged. We began to list people we had harmed, but many of us found we could not list these people without being distracted by feelings of resentment toward those who had harmed us. We honestly confessed our negative feelings to the Lord. In response, He showed us that we faced the same decision as the man in the parable who, having been forgiven of all his debts, needed to forgive others. We could almost hear the Lord say to us, “I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have . . . compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matthew 18:32–33).
If you find yourself facing this problem, you may need to do as many of us have done. Before you make a list of people from whom you need to seek forgiveness, first list those people you need to forgive. Don’t be surprised if some names appear 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.
To begin this process of forgiveness, we once more found the tool of writing to be invaluable. Next to the names of the people we needed to forgive, we recorded the way we originally felt when the hurtful incidents happened and what we were still tempted to feel. The list helped us be specific in our prayers as we shared with the Father all our unresolved feelings. We pled for the grace of Christ to help us extend to others the same mercy He gives us. If we found people on our lists that we had an especially difficult time forgiving, we took the Savior’s counsel to pray for their welfare, asking all the blessings for them that we would want for ourselves (see Matthew 5:44).
As we prayed for help to forgive others—even if it felt insincere at first—we were eventually blessed with a miraculous sense of compassion. Even in extreme situations, people who have taken this approach have received the ability to forgive far beyond themselves.
One sister spent several weeks writing about her childhood and praying for her abusive father. She testifies with joy that the Savior has relieved her of her negative, painful feelings toward her father. In making a similar effort, we have learned that by making a thorough inventory of our resentments and acknowledging them to the Savior, we finally ceased to be victims of those who hurt us. Once we honestly attempted to let go of offenses toward us, we found we were able to finish our lists of those we hoped would forgive us.
As you reach this point and begin your list, you should pray for guidance from the Lord. These guidelines may help. Ask yourself, “Is there anyone in my life, past or present, who I feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or ashamed around?” Write down their names, and resist the temptation to justify your feelings or excuse your negative actions toward them. Include those you meant to hurt, of course, and also those you did not intend to hurt. Include those who have passed away and those you have no idea how to contact. You will deal with these special cases when you take step 9. For now, as you work through step 8, focus on your willingness to be rigorous and unrelenting in your honesty.
To be thorough, look for things you neglected to do or things you left undone that hurt others. Don’t leave out little things. Think honestly about the harm you caused others as you indulged in your addiction, even if you were not aggressive toward them. Admit the harm you did to loved ones and friends by being irresponsible, irritable, critical, impatient, and dishonorable. Look for anything large or small that added to another person’s burdens or that saddened or challenged someone. Look for lies you told or promises you broke and ways you manipulated or used others. List everyone who was affected. You may find your step 4 inventory a useful guide in this process.
Finally, after you have listed everyone you have harmed, add one more name to the list—your own. When you indulged in your addictions, you harmed yourself as well as others.
As you work, remember that step 8 is not an exercise in casting guilt or shame on anyone—either yourself or those on your lists. The Savior will lift the burdens of guilt and shame as you take one more honest look at troubles in your relationships and your part in them. By becoming willing to make amends, you benefit from the peace of knowing that Heavenly Father is pleased with your efforts. This step helps you take the actions that enable the Savior to set you free from your past. Being willing, you become ready to take step 9.
Forgive yourself and others; make a list of people you might have offended or harmed
In step 8, you begin an amazing adventure in relating with a new heart to yourself, to others, and to life. You are ready to contribute peace to the world rather than add contention and negative feelings. You are willing to give up judging anyone unrighteously and to stop taking inventory of others’ lives and faults. You are ready to stop minimizing your own behavior or making excuses for it. You are willing to take another thorough inventory—this time of those you have harmed.
Although you may be terrified to consider it, you can become willing to meet the people on your list when the opportunity arises. You can prepare to do all you can to make amends to them. You can live by faith in the Lord, not in fear of what others might do. You can become willing in step 8 to live a life guided by principles rather than by shame or fear.
Seek the gift of charity; pray for others
For thousands of years, people have read Paul’s great discourse on charity and tried to model their lives after it. Many have struggled to have charity and have often fallen woefully short of doing so.
The writings of the prophet Mormon clarify what charity is and how to obtain it. He defined charity as “the pure love of Christ” and taught that the Father gives it to those who “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” and to “all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:47, 48).
Charity is a gift we receive as we learn to follow Jesus Christ and as we love Him with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Filled with this pure love from Him and for Him, we find ourselves able to love others as He has loved us. We become able to forgive the faults of others and to make amends for our mistakes.
In preparation for making amends, many of us have found the following exercise helpful. Think of someone for whom you have had hard feelings. For two weeks, deliberately kneel and pray for him or her each day. Keep a record of changes in your thoughts and feelings about that person. (See Matthew 22:37–38; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4:19; Moroni 7:44–48.)
Study and Understanding
The following scriptures and statements from Church leaders may help you as you take step 8. Use these scriptures and questions for meditation, study, and writing.
Peaceable followers of Christ
“I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
“And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men” (Moroni 7:3–4).
In the first seven steps, you began a process of becoming a peaceable follower of Christ. When you are at peace with the Lord, you are better prepared to be at peace with others. What other steps do you need to take to be at peace with the people in your life?
Write about the wisdom of taking the steps in order.
The Lord’s perfect love
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love [God], because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18–19).
The idea of making amends can be frightening if you focus on doing it perfectly. How can your trust in the Lord’s perfect love for you and for the person from whom you seek forgiveness strengthen your resolve to make restitution wherever possible?
Reaching out to others
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:37–38).
Even though you may fear that some people will reject your efforts to make peace with them, do not let this fear keep you from putting them on your list and preparing yourself to reach out to them. The blessings are far greater than the pain. Study these verses, and write about the blessings of becoming willing to make amends.
“The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. . . . If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:24).
Without Jesus Christ, we are all perishing, imperfect souls. How does it help you to know that in taking step 8 you are one perishing soul preparing to make amends to another perishing soul?
Forgiving and asking forgiveness
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21–22).
Forgiving and asking forgiveness for a single wrongdoing is easier than forgiving or asking forgiveness for longstanding situations filled with multiple offenses. Think about relationships, past or present, where multiple offenses have occurred and will need to be forgiven. How can you gain strength to forgive and seek forgiveness?
How is Jesus Christ the greatest example of the ability to forgive? Consider His willingness to help you forgive others.
“I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:9–10).
Jesus taught that to fail to forgive others is a greater sin than the original trespass or offense. How is refusing to forgive yourself or someone else the equivalent of denying the Savior’s Atonement for sin?
How do resentment and bitterness damage you physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
Breaking the cycle of bitterness and offense
“Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:23–24).
The Prophet Joseph Smith described how kindness can lead to repentance and forgiveness. Ponder and write about your willingness to be the one who breaks the cycle of bitterness and offense.
Think about people who have shown kindness and love to you. How have their actions inspired or motivated you to act differently?
Consider the troubled relationships in your life. In what ways might they change as you reach out to other people with love and kindness?