Step Nine of Twelve is very clear. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
We are talking about Justice.
Justice is not easy. This concept seems reasonable and most of us believe that we are fair and honorable people. But many of us unconsciously practice situational ethics. That is to say, if we have been wronged by others then we use the Old Testament ethic of ‘an eye for an eye.’ We justify our own transgression by focusing on the actions of the other person – exempting us from fault. That is not what a 12 step program is about. This program is about looking at self. It is more of a New Testament philosophy of ‘turn the other cheek.’ We are not preaching Christianity here – just using the Bible for our examples.
Yes, we have been wronged – the world around us can be harsh and cruel. But we are not trying to save the world. We are trying to get a grasp on ourselves – on our behaviors, and on our own spirituality. Many people, active in addiction, have lived in the depths of self-pity. Pondering, why is the world so cruel to me? This is the essence of selfishness. Step Nine calls on us to focus on ourselves in a different manner, asking: What have we done to others?
This is a selfish step in the sense that it makes no difference if our apologies are accepted, only that we offer our apologies. Of course, all of us hope for redemption, for forgiveness, for acceptance. But that is not the goal. The goal is justice – taking a wrong and making it right.
In this case we are the perpetrator of a wrong; we are the police, the prosecutor, the judge, they jury, and the executioner. We must look objectively at only our actions; we must escape the mind boggling complexities of cause and effect – simply look at self.
This will require sound judgment and prudence. The qualifier on the step is “except when to do so would injure them or others.” There is no spiritual value in hurting others. We cannot promote our own spirituality at the expense of others.
As with any faith program, any process of spiritual growth, we require the input of others. The slippery slope of faith is not lost in a 12 step program. In fact, the word ‘program’ defines the effectiveness of the 12 steps. These are not executed in a vacuum. The need for the input of others is to keep this very emotional process in check – the objective judgment of others in the ninth step is crucial.
Be sincere, be honest, be humble, and be forthright. We are not seeking abdication from sin, but justice for all.
See Also: On Addiction