This is another step where it seems there is not much to "do." Make a list. And the big book even says that we already made the list when we did our Fourth Step. The 12 and 12 says that we have that list and then we go back and redouble our efforts to see how many people we have hurt and in what ways.
Becoming willing to make amends to them all is probably the trickier part. Imagine this! You tell an alcoholic to make a list of the people he or she resents and later you tell them to go make amends to them! What a tricky deal this is!
I will just say that making amends is a very delicate science. I think it is the area where we need the most help from our sponsors. I can convince myself that I owe an amends when really I am looking for an amends from the other person. I can convince myself that telling another person how they have hurt me is somehow a 9th step amends. I can also convince myself that I ought to unload on them all "the truth" when they don't need to know... I am only hurting them more in an effort to feel better.
Let me tell you about one of my most misguided attempts at an amends.... misguided in this case meaning not guided at all. I did not talk it over with a sponsor. I did not pray about it. I did not write inventory or 5th step it. I just decided one day that I was hurt by my former best friend and decided to "make amends." I was sober all of 5 years, so I thought I knew what I was doing.
I sat down on the beach on Long Island, New York, and spent a morning writing her a letter. I told her how she had hurt me. I detailed it out for her so she would not have any doubt about how she had harmed me. Then I took out my checkbook and wrote a check for $10. I guess that was my way of making it an "amends." She had been married to a multi-millionaire (before his fraud conviction) and had given me money when I was a struggling single mother. I figured I owed her maybe a thousand dollars. I told her I would send her $10. a month until it was paid off. Now please be aware that she never loaned me money, she had given me money. I was just angry and wanted to throw it back in her face.
Well, months went by and I never heard back from her - what a surprise! Maybe 6 months later, I got an overdraft notice from the bank. It seems that I had let my checking account balance get down to nothing just before my monthly check hit the bank, and this was the exact moment when she decided to cash this $10. check. The check bounced! Nice amends, huh? A nasty letter and a bad check. And then I truly owed her an amends - a real amends.
We did later get this all straightened out. She did make amends to me for the things I was so angry about. I did get to make amends for this stuff and plenty more stuff too.
But I think this is a perfect illustration of why you don't just go off and make amends. You have a list. You consider it carefully, adding or subtracting, with the help of your sponsor and plenty of prayer. And then you pray some more for the willingness to do the right thing and get straight with the world.
And what a wonderful thing that is....