Making amends is seeking to reconcile after you have directly wronged someone.
Making amends is seeking to do what you can to own and apologize for your selfish choices.
Making amends with others brings you more peace.
Making amends is the first step towards rebuilding trust, which takes time.
Making amends is not always possible.
There are three reasons you may not make amends directly to the person.
If they are unreachable. If the person is dead or you cannot reach them, you can write an amends that you never send. Or you can commit to making a living amends by changing your life moving forward.
If they are unwilling. Perhaps you try to initiate an amends, and the person doesn't want to hear from you, and in this case, don't push your amends on them. Although making amends will benefit you greatly, make amends to make peace, not primarily to meet your needs.
If it will cause additional harm. At times, reaching out to make amends to one person can cause further harm to another. For example, if you had an affair with someone, it's generally best not to make amends with them directly, as it would likely cause additional harm to your spouse. While you may experience pain in making amends, this likely isn't causing you harm. At times, making amends may cause you such undue harm it isn't recommended. For example, if someone has shown to be malicious towards you, you may not make direct amends. Carefully consider this with wise counsel, as you can deceive yourself and think you have good boundaries when you're simply avoiding responsibility.
Here's a process to follow to help you make amends:
Ideally, make amends in person. If this isn't possible, you can make amends over the phone or in a letter or text. Or, if you can't reach them, you may need to write an amends and never send it.
Before you meet, you can do four things to prepare.
Forgive first. First, work on your side of the street and forgive someone for any ways they have wronged you. If you don't, they will sense your lack of forgiveness, and it can make your amends more destructive than helpful.
Let go of resentments. You can't amend what you continue to destroy. Feeding resentment is toxic to your peace of mind and cuts you off from the possibility of reconciliation.
Write down your wrongs. List out all the ways you have directly wronged the person (examples: I was rude to you, I cheated on you, I stole $300 from you, I violated your trust by misleading you).
Seek perspective. It can be helpful to share this with a trusted friend or mentor to gain additional insight before you seek to make amends with the person you have wronged.
When you meet, you can do six things.
Own your behavior. Share your list of the wrongs you have done.
Apologize. Say, "It was wrong of me to do those things."
Be humble and open-minded. Listen to what they have to say. Don't argue. Listen seeking to understand more than to be understood. If the person responds with contempt, accept their emotions instead of fighting them, but you don't have to agree with their view of you.
Sometimes people react with tremendous anger and toxicity. For example, they might say, "You should kill yourself." You can respond by saying, "I will pray about that," or if you are in recovery, "I will talk to my sponsor about that." It can be helpful to be prepared with a simple response during a potentially tense conversation.
Offer to make amends. Ask, "Is there anything I can do to begin to make this right?" If you have an idea of how you might make it right, you can offer a suggestion. For example, you can offer to repay what you stole. It may not be possible to make things right directly with the person you wronged. All you can do in this case is try to live differently moving forward.
Check for blindspots. Ask, "Did I miss anything? Did I leave anything out?"
If they say you have, acknowledge it, own your behavior, apologize, and offer to make amends for this wrong.
Agree to do what they ask you to do unless it will go against your values or cause harm to someone.
Explore the need for further amends. If you trust them, ask if there's anyone else they think you owe amends to.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
"Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—
that where there is hatred, I may bring love—
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—
that where there is error, I may bring truth—
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—
that where there is despair, I may bring hope—
that where there are shadows, I may bring light—
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—
to understand, than to be understood—
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen."
As quoted in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (p. 99)
Is there anyone you have harmed that you need to make amends to?
If you are wrestling with whether you should make amends with someone, you would probably benefit if you did.
Like what you're reading? Do you want to cultivate more of the good, true, courageous, and beautiful in your life?
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