The Top of the List

If you ever find yourself working the 12 Steps, you will eventually be making a list of persons you have harmed in order to begin to become willing to make amends to them all.  If you are anything like I am, you’ll find the list making easy and the notion of becoming willing a bit abstract.  You’ll end up with a long list of people that you’ll review with a friend or sponsor and likely discover that you never actually harmed some of the people on your list, so you get to cross them off.  Whew.  But there will still be plenty left … some, you could make amends to tomorrow … some, perhaps never.  If you have a good friend or sponsor, he’ll tell  you, Put yourself at The Top of the List.   You’ll say, Oh, sure, maybe even writing your name on the page, but you’ll go back to worrying about those other people on your list.

Then, sometime later … even as long as eighteen years … you’ll be sitting in a meeting and the topic will be forgiveness.   Nothing anyone says will please you and when it’s your turn, your Inner Curmudgeon will speak for you, saying that you can’t forgive until you’re ready, otherwise, it’s just words.   You’ll get to hear it again, for the thousand and first time … put yourself at the top of the list.   You’ll drive home vaguely uncomfortable and have trouble falling asleep.   In the morning, as you’re writing your morning pages, it will hit you – you’re still not at the top of your list for amends.   When you read the page of the day in Iyanla Vanzant’s Until Today, it’s about forgiving yourself.

There aren’t any armed robberies or serial killings back there, just taking for granted the good you do and considering the rest not good enough.   Mistakes made but never forgiven.  Just being human.  You’ll decide it’s humbling to discover that you still have work to do after sixty-seven years of life and almost twenty years of Steps.  But hopefully you’ll realize that  that humility is a good thing … and that you’ve always thrived on doing the work, even if you never gave yourself credit for it.

It’s Serious Saturday.  Are you at the top of your list?

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9 Comments on “The Top of the List”

  1. Maybe I don’t fully recognize what you’re saying, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking time to forgive or be forgiven. I agree with your Inner Curmudgeon; it needs to be sincere, either way, and seeking or granting forgiveness does not always necessitate putting yourself at the top of the list (though being aware and mindful are important). My nephews sometimes refuse to apologize to each other if they’ve done something to each other, and my sister won’t force them; she doesn’t want to teach them to devalue the words “I’m sorry.” But they do often say those words without prompting. Even at three, they understand what it means to seek, and grant, forgiveness. And they understand that the compulsion is not always there.

    • oldereyes Says:

      The place that most 12 Step programs diverge from what I’d heard before working the Steps is the attention to your own side of the street without regard to what anyone else does. You make amends to clean your own side without any regard as to whether you get forgiven or not. And many working the Steps believe that we have no right to forgive anyone because we have no right to be judging them in the first place. I don’t go quite that far but I do think we sometimes hold forgiveness over people for a ransom. My real point, I guess, was the importance of self-forgiveness, which indeed can take time. Sometimes twenty years.

  2. Although no one (that I recall now anyway) ever put it this way -to list yourself at the top of this listing -or to even make such a list either, for that matter,) it does make sense though because as a general rule, even without being in a 12-step program, we often do not see ourselves in that kind of light.
    You read Iyanly VanZandt too? My younger daughter and I have several of her books and try to utilize many of her thoughts and theories in our day-to-day lives too. (Did you per chance see her not too long ago on a return visit to Oprah’s show, shortly before Oprah ended her show for good? It was very interesting to see how her life had changed so drastically from the days a goodly number of years back when Oprah frequently had her as a guest on her show and what her thoughts over that span had been about her own relationship to Oprah. Very thought-provoking, for sure!)

    • oldereyes Says:

      You know, it’s funny. Oprah drives me nuts … I can’t even stand to be in the room when my wife has her on. But I bought Vanzant’s book on sight, before Muri told me she was an Oprah promotee. I actually put the book away for a while at that point but now use it regularly. I wonder if I’m the only man on the planet that does. Her know-it-all tone drives me crazy (sort of like Oprah’s) but she’s on the mark often enough that I put up with it.

  3. Iyanla – can’t seem to spell or type very accurately today!

  4. granny1947 Says:

    Hi Bud…A really interesting post.
    One i am going to think about!

  5. I think forgiving ourselves or others becomes hard when we try to make it total. Bishop Tutu said forgiving another is mainly making a decision not to take revenge. I generally can do that. When I make that decision, it almost becomes an amends in and of itself and allows me to be okay when I see the person again.

    I also read recently, forget where–so my brain goes–that when you forgive someone. if done face-to-face, you should be prepared to have them forgive you. Seems many who ask someone to forgive them have trouble with that one, Taking a personal inventory is never easy.

    I do work at forgiving myself, mainly again in small steps. Just repeating “I am forgiven, I forgive, I am human, I do the best I can” a few times before shutting my eyes for the night helps.

    Thank you for your posting on this.

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