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Best way to make amends if you really mess up?
We've all done it and had to make amends for something we did that was reactionary, stupid, hurtful etc. What is the best way to make amends with someone? NOT saying "I'm Sorry" because talk is cheap, what is the best actual way you can do something or what kind of gesture is the best way to make amends for a mistake you feel guilty about?
I've always found the best way to make amends is to sincerely apologize, and then let the person cool down for a while. No one wants to be overwhelmed with constant apologies. I think that makes it worse.
An apology and then an occasional email or something to let that person know you are thinking about them. It really depends on what happened, too. If it was really awful, flowers and going out of your way to be kind often helps. A Hallmark card is pretty nice, too. If that person moves anytime soon, you'd better offer to help. If they need a ride to the airport, you'd better gas up that car and go pick them up on time to take them. Actions do speak louder than words.
To me, the biggest offenses are often those so painful to the one who committed them that it may be almost unbearable for that person to even allow himself to talk about it (including apologizing). Whenever I've been "the offendee" I haven't really wanted the person who did something and didn't mean to do, and maybe didn't know any better; apologize to me or do anything else to make up for it.
For me, a simple acknowledge that the "offense" happened is all I ever need. For example, once someone simply said, "I'm sorry. That's not what I wanted...". (that type of thing). Someone else once said, "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
It became an over-used and super-corny joke soon after it "was out there", but in the movie "Love Story", do you remember, "Love means never having to say you're sorry?" I think "getting it" remains important, but sometimes, I think, when people have a very strong bond, sometimes they do know how sorry someone is and truly understand that the person didn't intend harm.
I know what it's like to do something that hurts someone even when that was the last thing I'd ever, ever, want to do (and most of the time, people don't mean to cause the hurt/harm they do to those close enough to be "more hurtable" than, say, strangers).
My "thing" has always been that all I'd like to get from someone who has done something seriously damaging/hurtful in my life is for me to know that the person "gets it" - that's all. I'm fine with understanding that it's so painful to the one who committed the offense he/she can't talk about it. (Maybe he/she can't even allow himself to think about.) I just need to know - without a doubt and once and for all - that s/he "gets it".
As for strangers/outsider and others that I'm not close to (maybe a professional/business relationship), then I switch to the "talk is cheap" thing and want compensation - and maybe firing, suspended or terminated professional licenses, and written apologies.
Also, talk may be cheap but it's still the best way to "connect" genuinely. It shouldn't be underestimated.
With any more minor offenses; to me, a sincere and simple "I'm sorry," (sometimes with a simple explanation, perhaps) is generally all I want/need.
It depends on what it is that the person has done. I think if you're truly sorry, a genuine "I'm sorry," is never wasted. It takes courage to admit that you stuffed up. Ask that person what you can do to make it up to them. Acknowledge that you know you've hurt them and possibly lost their trust and ask them what it is they need to get over it. To me, buying gifts etc is not a genuine gesture, I think it's like trying to buy their forgiveness. And most of all, if they ask for space, let them have it!
Accept full responsibility for your mistake without apologizing for it. Admit you are wrong sincerely and let them see your eyes. Your eyes have a way of silent expression, if you really feel bad it will show. Accepting responsibility without excuses takes the fight out of an argument, if it is sincere.
One of the least understood, least practiced, and least appreciated means of making amends is the concept of reparation. Reparation is not a bribe for forgiveness. It is the attempted compensation for a wrong we have inflicted on another. There are times when there is no way to repair the damage we've done to another other than to make reparation in an amount the person offended feels is true compensation. Reparation satisfies our innate need for justice. But perhaps more than a gift to the offended, reparation is often the only way we can forgive ourselves for our wrongdoing. Reparation must be given with the acknowledgement to the person we offended that we know there is no way we can "make up" for what we've done. We need to explain that we hope this reparation can compensate for the person's suffering. We need to ask if it is enough.
We need to make reparation when something we've done has been deeply hurtful and has been soul-wrenching for us who have committed the act. However, we can be playful and use reparation for minor offences as well. If I have caused an inconvenience to my husband or have been exceptionally irritating, I will often do something sweet and let him know openly that this is "in reparation for my sins." Of course he laughs, but the look on his face is one of smiling appreciation. There is a very delicate line to walk with reparation so that, as the offender, we don't allow the knowledge that we will work to repair our actions give us a license to repeat our actions. The world yearns for reparation. We, as individuals, yearn for reparation from others. Sincere, meaningful, and adequate reparation could do a great deal to heal our own wounds and society's wounds.
A lovely question, Christin.
Saying " I'm sorry" is an apology. An amend is not. "I'm sorry" is asking for forgiveness. An amend is not. An amend is going to the person that you wronged and sincerely attempting to make things right or as near right as possible; regardless whether they forgive you or not. And there are times when approaching the person involved that they will tell you to just leave them alone and never speak to them again. And that's exactly what you do. Even if you are rejected, it is still an amend. Don't forget, your amend is a willingness, not an action. And the only side of the street you can clean up is your own. If they don't accept your willingness, that's on them. Your job is done.
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