A spirit of compassion evolves from the process of making amends and from a practice of self-examination. Being compassionate is a natural outcome of this process. By making a list of all the people we have harmed and discovering the pattern underlying our hurtful behavior, we can see that we were the common denominator in all our difficulties.
Taking responsibility for who we have been, what we have done wrong, and who we want to be is self-empowering. We cannot make sincere amends unless we are compassionate. The meaning of the word compassion demonstrates its importance in this process. It is derived from the Latin word com, which is a prefix that means “together,” and pati, a suffix that means “to suffer.” Compassion, therefore, is sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of someone, accompanied by the urge to help. When we make amends, we engender compassion for ourselves and others.
Seeking to right our wrongs and take responsibility for what we have done wrong also releases us from our need to be right. We can end conflict with our fellows. We can stop trying to convince others that we are right and they are wrong. We make amends to take responsibility for our side of the street because it’s the right thing to do, and we do it to forgive ourselves rather than to seek or receive forgiveness. We stop living up to other people’s expectations and become more concerned with what we expect from ourselves.
One of the hidden rewards of working these three Steps is that our focus on outcomes diminishes. It is a paradox. When we shift our focus from outcomes to the challenges and joys of being (of process), we can use our awareness to realize our potential. Being a process of potentialities being born is exciting, because it is the process of uncovering and discovering who we really are. This reunites us with our true-self, with our basic need to grow, and restores our ability to self-actualize. We recover our motivation to grow, which was hijacked by our false-self and our addict-self.
One of the hidden rewards from working Steps 8, 9, and 10 is the restoration of trust. We restore the trust we have shattered by becoming trustworthy. Being worthy of trust is critical if we are going to develop healthy human relations.
Being trustworthy is sacred. It requires that we operate from the best in us, not the worst in us. This is a very important hidden reward from working Steps 8, 9, and 10. We restore trust in our relationships because we are worthy of being trusted. This does not mean that we become perfect and therefore won’t ever do wrong again. We strive for progress, not perfection. But if we commit ourselves to accurate self-appraisal, we will recognize when we are wrong and clean it up.
Allen Berger is a talented psychotherapist, lecturer, and popular recovery author who has written extensively about the experience of recovery, the important topic of emotional sobriety, integrating modern psychotherapy and the 12 Steps, and the psychological forces operating in the Twelve Steps. He is author of 12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery, 12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends, 12 Smart Things to Do When the Booze and Drugs Are Gone and his most recent Hazelden book, 12 More Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery. You can learn more about Dr. Berger and his work at abphd.com.