FORGIVING SELF, FIRST ! WHY MAKE AMENDS?
Some years ago, I completed a Christian Celebrate Recovery program. As promised, It helped participants to face their addictions, cope with and overcome their hurts, habits and hang ups. One of the most difficult steps to complete was forgiving myself for my bad choices and wrong lifestyle decisions and turning to those I had hurt, in order to make amends. We learned that making amends was not so much to receive forgiveness for the wrongs committed but moreso to bring closure and get things off our chests. A most important point to note is that forgiveness is not always forthcoming. Sometimes the hurt is too deep seated, the damage is irreparable or the ones we have offended by word or action are not open to reconciliation. So one may ask, 'How can I be forgiven if I seek to make amends and it is not forthcoming'? Strangely, making amends is not primarily to seek reconciliation but to forgive ourselves for the error and to let the ones offended know that we accept responsibility for our actions.
This matter of making amends has hit home recently and I have had to revisit the core of making amends. It is a human reaction to expect a warm reaction, open arms and mended relationships when we seek to make amends. That is what our hearts desire. Okay we messed up, fessed up and are welcomed back into the circle of trust. Unfortunately, as I have learned, that is oftentimes, not the case. Ever so often, being sorry for an action, does not result in a formidable resolution. Many times we deal with friends and family members who are unyielding, cold and only willing to have us live with the constant reminder that we failed. Some folk want us to remember; prefer to keep the measure of our mistake looming before us as a dark cloud. This way, we can never live down or move beyond our failings. Thus why we make our amends should firstly be to forgive ourselves for the guilt and weight of our error. Forgive ourselves for that person's feelings we hurt, five years ago. We need to move beyond and forgive ourselves for falling under the spell of addiction in its every form. How long should we penalize ourselves for our bad choices and why should we punish ourselves for the pain we caused others when that person refuses to give closure? No, making amends is for our personal gain, peace of mind and well being. We seek forgiveness to remove our guilt and purge ourselves of the heaviness of our wrong doing. Holding on to this guilt makes our hearts and minds, septic so we must cleanse ourselves of the shame of our wrong doing.
Helpful Tips on Making Amends
1. Be mentally and physically, if spiritual, be spiritually prepared. You must be ready for the task.
2. Consider what method is appropriate for the apology or for making amends. Sometimes a letter is favorable if you rather or are afraid of a face to face contact. You can try making amends using the internet via an email or even a simple text message can open the door for amend making based on the extent or severity of the damages caused. It may be that you must do a face to face meeting. Whatever you decide, make certain, it is an arrangement you are comfortable with.
3. Timing is key. Don't try to approach the offended party at work or in a chaotic setting. You need to have his/her complete attention and privacy may be a requirement based on the sensitive nature of the apology or details.
4. Be honest in your desire to make amends. Only do it if you are indeed, truly sorry or repentent. If you are not truly sorry, it is time for soul searching and personal change.
5. Keep it simple. There is no need to rehash the incident. There is no point in arguing or reopening wounds. It can be as simple as, "I know that I hurt you and I have just come to say that I am sorry for the pain I caused you."
4. Know when to walk away. If the attempt to make amends become a shouting match, if your apology is not accepted or if the one whose forgiveness you asks, becomes abusive or condescending, know that your job is done, turn and walk away. As long as you have had the opportunity to say, heartfelt, those three basic words, "I am sorry," you have made your amends. You can walk away in peace and with peace of mind. Receiving forgiveness is optional.
Indeed, when we seek forgiveness there is no harm in holding out hope that we will be forgiven but we must always keep in mind that it may not be rendered. Our attempt at gaining forgiveness may be sneered at or jeered upon. With this possibility when seeking forgiveness or making amends, we must keep an open mind and have an attitude of preparedness, should our apology not be accepted. Make amends for you. Remember that saying I am sorry is not optional when making amends but gaining forgiveness or pardon from the one you offended, is.