When listing the people we had harmed, most of us hit another solid obstacle.
I decided to write more on the eighth step, read the next paragraph, and took a shower and thought about it. The paragraph goes on to say that the thought of facing these people face to face and admitting our wrongs stops us again. I need to think about that, because I’m seriously considering how to go about this in the near future at this time in my sobriety. However, there are things I need to record about the list itself.
It’s interesting for me to see what I have written, because now I know just how long I’ve been thinking about doing this or that, and what actually done about it. I’ve been trying to improve and expand my prayer life, I’m afraid for probably ten months now. In addition to needing to kick up the number and quality of prayers I say beyond my usual gratitude list and quick plea for help, I didn’t ordinarily pray for people.
It’s a common suggestion and so one I’ve tried many times, to pray for the person who is giving my grief for some minimum amount of time. I’ve done that, and it hasn’t helped my feelings about the person, and it hasn’t helped me feel better, and I don’t like it. I’ve pretty much discarded it as a strategy that will work for me, though of course as new situations present themselves, the good people of AA suggest it to me again and again. And in theory I know they are right and that they have more knowledge than I do and that I only have to pay for the suggestions I don’t take.
I’ve even tried at times to list people in categories like they do in my church and pray for people who are sick, people who are unemployed, people who are trouble of whatever kind, listing the people I know. I like that better, but still don’t like it much, and I never stuck to it.
A while ago, when I was writing prayers in difficult work situations to get through, I listed the people I generally would pray for or worry about, and decided to try paying prayerful attention to them one at a time, rather than in a list form. There were ten or fifteen people on my list: my immediate family and best friends, others in my daily life who are struggling with one thing or another. I changed the person every day or every other day, depending on how much time I had to spend on “prayer.” Then I started listing the person in the sidebar of this blog, and that has helped me a lot. A few times a day now I think of who is listed right now and what they need or what I hope for them. I’ve even called the person or emailed or said “yes” when they asked me for something or in one case I just did a favor that I was able to do, without being asked and without giving the person any chance to say no. I’m liking this a lot.
I’ve had two recent revelations regarding this list. First, I realized a few days ago, while contemplating Step Eight and a particular problem someone in my life was having, I had failed to list the people who give me trouble. Not my family and friends who give me trouble. Those very few people who I resent highly and for so very long at work. I had not listed them. I had not prayed for them. While the two week thing that’s always suggested has not worked for me, I think that adding them to my list of regular concerns will help me, and surely it won’t hurt them. So they’ve joined my list.
The second revelation happened this morning at work in the morning meeting. I haven’t been bringing the prayers there with me because I’ve been doing much better with being happy and grateful and present lately, but yesterday and this morning were difficult, so I took the book with me. I began to rewrite the prayer list as I had been doing frequently and thinking about if anyone needed to be added or dropped, and I realized that I don’t know who Heather is. Or James. Or how they got on my list. Or why I put them there.
Of course I know lots of people named Heather and James, but no one I can consciously think of reason to pray for beyond the usual. So I guess I need to be more selective about who I put on the list, and make sure I’ll remember who they are a few days later.
So this is not a list of people I have harmed, although maybe in a large cosmic sense I have harmed each one in some way or other. But it’s a list, and it now contains the people I have the most trouble loving and accepting along with the others who are easy to love. I’m sure that if I decide later with this step to make an actual list, my prayer list is where I will start.