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Making Amends

When you make a mistake that may have harmed someone emotionally, physically, or monetarily, making an amends is often the best way to repair the damage and move on, grow, and learn from the mistake.

12 Step programs (wiki) such as AA, as well as many other resources including the Bible talk about making amends. Dictionary.com says "to compensate, as for an injury, loss, or insult" and "reparation or compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind; recompense."

Two of AA's 12 Steps (aa.org) that are directly applicable to the issue of making amends say: 

  1. "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves," This is to evaluate what mistakes you have made.
  2. "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

Saying you're sorry to the person you have harmed is a good start. In addition, making amends whenever possible, is the best way to free you from guilt. This is because you are making a "best effort" to correct your mistake. It also is the most effective solution for both parties.

(Note: In a simple example to help you understand what it means to make an amends, say you physically damaged their car. An amends should start by paying for the repairs. Saying your sorry doesn't pay the bills. Making an emotional amends follows the same principals.

12 Step programs say "think about what you did wrong" and then "repair the damage." They define a clear plan of action. There is a slogan in 12 Step Programs, and that is that "the program works if you work it." Making amends is the loving action that will release you from your guilt. You will heal both parties reopening the option for living a positive life and achieving Authentic Happiness (upenn.edu).

Most professionals say that if you have harmed someone either emotionally, physically, or financially, in most cases, making amends is the best solution to releasing guilt, since it may be the only way to re-balance the scales of "fairness" between the two people.

When you think about this, making amends is really is very similar to what happens if someone goes to court in the American judicial system. The court may have a trial where both parties have the opportunity to "tell their side of the story", and then the court decides if anyone is found guilty. The court then generally charges the guilty party with some kind of "fine." The court's job is to attempt to determine the truth, balance the scale of fairness, and this is believed to be the best resolution for both parties.

The truth is we are human, and humans make mistakes.

What I invite you to do is to think about this:

Isn't the true value in making amends to another person

the gift of healing both parties?

Let me tell you a story about a lesson from my Grandma S.

When I was very young, I was at my grandparents' home. I played with a toy that was on a shelf for display, and I broke the toy. Not long after, my grandmother asked me to walk with her to the washroom. She asked me if I had broken the toy. I felt horrible. My Grandma S. was an amazing, nice, and very loving grandmother. My initial reaction was to say I didn't do it, because I had been taught by others (but not her) that mistakes should be punished, and that could include shame. I then felt so much worse! How could I lie to my loving grandmother? After a few long seconds, she asked me again, and I admitted my mistake. She then took a bar of soap, and told me to wash my mouth out with soap. I did that, and that was the end of the issue. I never felt shamed by her. She did not appear mad, and she never said anything about it ever again.

Today I still remember how I felt like a weight had been taken off my heart very soon after admitting my mistake. I confessed my lie, and the soap was cleansing. It served a way of making an amends; it provided forgiveness for my mistake, as well as a reminder for me in the future.  People make mistakes all the time, and if you do make a mistake that affects others, fix it by making amends. That process was very effective in releasing my guilt, and taught me several lessons. Honesty is part of love. I thank you, thank you, thank you Grandma S. for this lesson.

Negativity, such as guilt, has been scientifically shown to cause health issues that will reduce your lifespan. Therefore, guilt does have a cost. How much does guilt cost, not in dollars, but in health and happiness?

Resolving an issue benefits both parties, and if the other party is a friendship, a family member, or a loved one, think of the value of rekindling that relationship. Don't forget, life is too short to allow issues result in long-term guilt, or to lose a previously good relationship! How do you want to live your life? How about by being loving? How do you feel when you are loving?

See also:

Thank YOU for reading this!

By David Morgan

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This page updated 03/22/19 05:11 PM