In the 12-step program, people can get hung-up on step 8:
We made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
God completely forgives us for our sins, our missteps, our stupid mistakes.
But we usually (No, always!) have to go back and mend broken relationships. Doing that helps others to forgive us, too, and not remain stuck. As Fr. Richard Rohr says: “Otherwise, others will not be able to forgive us but will remain stuck, and they and we will remain wounded. We usually must make amends to forgive even ourselves.”
All healers are “wounded healers,” said Henri Nouwen. Absolutely! In fact, you are usually most able to heal others exactly in the place where you yourself were wounded, or where you wounded others.
Again, Fr. Richard Rohr: “You learn to salve the wounds of others by knowing and remembering how much it hurts to hurt. … It is often painful to recall or admit, yet this is also the grace of lamenting and grieving over how we have hurt others. Fortunately, God reveals our sins to us gradually so we can absorb what we have done over time.”
It might take you a long time to make amends. Here’s the nugget: people in step 8 make lists — not of how others have hurt them. That’s normal, sad to say. This list, says Fr. Rohr, comes when we realize we “have been given some new software, a program called grace, a totally new pattern.”
God has given us a “a new mind” (Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10-11; 1 Corinthians 2:16). We know we have embraced this new mind when our list is not of those who hurt us but of those people we have hurt, failed, or mistreated.
And that list changes everything … from one of feeding resentments to a mind that is both incredibly grateful and humble for the wonderful, forgiving grace of Jesus.