The Ninth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we make amends to those we have harmed. We make direct amends wherever possible, focusing on the exact nature of our wrongs. We take accountability for our actions. However, there is far more to amends than just making a direct amends.
Living amends is the practice of changing our behavior. We must not just rely on direct amends to change our lives. The essence of the ninth step and amends is to amend our behavior. If we make direct amends, but continue behaving in that way, then we really aren’t amending anything at all!
The word amend means to improve upon or to make better. Knowing this, we recognize that making amends has to do with changing our behavior. When we go through the 6th and 7th Steps, we become willing to let our character defects go. For alcoholics and addicts, our character defects have often been driving our actions for a period of time. When we become willing to and humbly ask our Higher Power to remove these defects, we must also take action. God can move mountains, but we must bring shovels!
Amending our behavior is simple, but not easy. We must look at where our behaviors are harming us and others. Recognizing these behaviors, we must act in the opposite way. For example, if we are asking to be freed of selfishness, we must act selflessly. Taking the action, we leave the rest up to our Higher Power. When we make direct amends to somebody, we must follow it up by behaving in a new way.
Looking at our character defects that cause harm to others, we practice the opposite of each one. There are opportunities every day to practice good qualities, both with the person we have harmed, and with everyone else in our lives. In this way, our behavior changed, and we no longer are causing harm to those around us.