"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all."
In this Step, I am being asked to be honest with myself about the harm that I have done in my life, and to work towards achieving willingness to make amends. When I did this for the first time, my list was exhaustive. All the guilt and grime and gunk - I wanted to be rid of all of it, so I scoured every inch of my memory. I made amends in person wherever possible, and when that wasn't, by phone call or by letter. Most of my amends were gracefully accepted. One in particular was very painfully refused, and that brought me to a standstill for a while, as I dealt with my feelings surrounding that. My sponsor urged me on. With regard to people with whom I'd lost touch, I made amends with my sponsor standing in for the person.
When I finished, I was completely emptied out, and peaceful. This glorious feeling lasted for all of 5-10 seconds before my sponsor brought me rudely back to reality by asking a pointed question: Why was I not on my amends list? Did I not understand that if I didn't put myself on this list, I would continue to exhibit the same self-defeating behaviors which had caused me so much pain in the past?
She assigned me the monumental task of making up a list of all the ways I had harmed myself. I drove home feeling overwhelmed, and thoroughly annoyed with her, for not allowing me to bask in that great feeling for more than a nanosecond. Remembering that, I laugh - she had me dead to rights, and knew me well enough to perceive that if I didn't do this while still powerfully motivated, I might procrastinate for years.
This was one of the most intense times of self-examination I've ever experienced. It had been a formidable task to do Step Four - a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself; it was something else entirely to winkle out all the ways in which I'd harmed myself. Time and again, I saw that my harm to myself arose from my character defects. Pride, an inflated ego, fear, resentment, and many more, had motivated me to repeatedly choose the worst of all possible solutions to my past difficulties.
If I want to live free of guilt, remorse, or unease, I not only need to make better choices in my behaviors, I also need, when I mis-step, and harm another through sharp words or unkindness, to make amends for that.
Many years ago, I was in a fast-food restaurant, and spoke sharply to the counter person, who was mortified by my rudeness. I got my food, and went out to my car, where I unwrapped it, and could not take a bite. I could feel my Higher Power's presence, and knew what I had to do. I rewrapped the food, and going back into the restaurant, asked the boy if I could speak to him for a moment. He blanched, poor soul, but said yes, and walked down to the end of the counter so I could speak quietly to him. I apologised to him for my rudeness. His entire face lit up, and he accepted my amend with an eager kindness. We made eye contact for a moment, grinning at each other, then said goodbye, and off I went to happily devour my now-cold, but immeasurably delicious, food.