We move on to making amends to others in two
ways: the first is to make direct amends, except
when doing so will do more harm than good and
the second is to make ‘living amends’ by changing
Making Direct Amends
Many of us get to this point and then abandon the program altogether. Making amends to others we have harmed can seem too daunting to go through with. To look another person in the eyes and make an amend is not what we hoped would be asked of us. However, this is one of the most powerful actions we will ever undertake. To admit our wrongs is about making reparation that will bring self-healing more than any other action possible. Admitting our wrongs is more than simply saying ‘sorry’; it’s saying that we are changing in a way that ensures we will never commit those wrongs again.
We look at our list and decide to whom we wish to make amends first. There are two ways this can happen. Firstly, we can make an appointment with someone and say to him or her, ‘I’m working a program that asks me to make amends and I would like to come see you and make amends for the past’. We may have abused, lied to or harmed this person in other ways. This is the time to speak directly to this person and apologize for our previous behavior.
The second way to make amends is to drop an apology into a conversation when it feels ‘right’. James did this when he was at a family gathering for a birthday celebration. His father was talking about James’ early travels and it was the opportunity for James to make an amend for not contacting him for three years. He simply said, ‘Oh yeah, and sorry for being absent for ages; I was finding my feet.’ His father smiled and nodded and James’s amend was acknowledged.
We approach the people on our amends list with an honesty and openness that calls for us to put down our defenses. However, we don’t want to create a bigger problem than is already there, so we act with caution.
We make amends without expectation. If we hope the other person forgives us without question we maybe disappointed, and we will not be truly making amends. Rather, we’ll be manipulating the situation for our own salvation. No, we are ready to make amends without needing another person to fix or rescue us. We don’t need to say much; ‘sorry for what I did/said’ is often all that’s needed. Saying and being sorry is one of the greatest acts of restitution we can achieve. We make our amends with the knowledge that we may never receive an apology from that person, but we do our bit to heal the relationship from our side of the street.
Saying sorry while in remorse doesn’t count. Like an addict who is sorry for the money he stole to buy drugs, but will continue to use drugs, there are times when an apology doesn’t mean anything. Making amends for something but continuing to behave in the same way doesn’t cut it. But by the time we get to this part of the program, we have enough self awareness to understand that we were powerless over our behavior and now, with Higher Power’s help, we are ready to change.
Making Living Amends
Sometimes saying ‘I’m sorry’ isn’t enough and we need to fundamentally change our behavior towards someone we have harmed.
We look at making a shift when we’re in their company. Perhaps we’re not so defensive or we acknowledge that they care for us even though we’d like to stick with our victim story that no one cares for us. Look at the evidence and put right what seems wrong. Become ‘present’ when you’re with them rather than give attention to your racing mind.
There’s a phrase that says ‘Mind The Gap’. It refers to the process of pausing before reacting to another person’s comment or action. Instead of a knee jerk reaction, pause mentally and separate yourself from the situation. Create a gap in which you can respond differently. We want to take responsibility for our behavior and sometimes tactics like this can help us do things differently.
Making Amends To Our Children
A Living Amend is often the best way to make amends to our children. By changing our behavior we can make amends instantly. Making direct amends is not usually the soulful way because we may be looking to absolve ourselves of guilt at the children’s expense. Also, what use is an amend if we carry on in the same way?
By now there is a realization that the dysfunction from our past has been handed down from one generation to the next. Without being aware of it, we picked up our parents’ baggage and were in the process of handing it on to our own children. But now is the time to stop those familial patterns of behavior.
By making amends to ourselves, we also make amends to our children. Because once we begin focusing on our own feelings, thoughts and behaviors, we allow our children the space to do the same. We become more willing to listen to them with an open heart rather than a defensive stance. We acknowledge our own wrongs that were founded on a misguided belief that parenting our children meant sticking with old rules like ‘we don’t talk about our feelings’.
Once we forgive ourselves, we become better able to hear the negative effects our unhealthy parenting had on our children. We understand that sometimes our children need to share this with us in order for them to move on with their own lives.
Making Financial Amends
Some of us may have financial amends to make. We may have stolen or borrowed money we haven’t repaid, and we need to pay it back. Many of us have been reckless or unmanageable when it comes to finance. We’ve not had the self worth to find work or keep our careers on track; we’ve lost businesses, borrowed money, lent money to others or been strapped with another person’s debts. We must be willing to take responsibility for our past debt and our current finances.
Many of us have found ourselves responsible for debts that were not of our making; this is the cost of our previously dysfunctional behavior. Sometimes our own debt is so great we know we cannot pay it off without harming our family. In these cases we become willing to make amends even if we aren’t capable.
We set ourselves a goal to restore our outstanding balances and we talk to our Higher Power about our willingness to put things right. We carry this willingness in all our financial affairs and we become mindful of not taking anything that doesn’t belong to us; not a pencil from the office, not a pair of slippers from the hotel and not a dollar that we found on the floor. We strive to make good every time we are tempted to take what is not ours.
Praying For Guidance
We pray to our Higher Power for willingness, guidance and direction in making our amends. We want restitution for the chaos of our past. At the same time, we need to take care of ourselves.
For example, there is no point in trying to make amends to someone who has been trying to rescue us by telling them I’m not going to allow you to rescue me any more. This will come across as an angry statement and not an amend. Another example is to make a direct amend to someone to whom we stole from when the consequences may be going to prison. This will help nobody. A better way of making amends in this case is to do some community work or give funds to a charity that would be close to the person from whom we stole.
However, our amend needs to count. It needs to build bridges and re-build broken bridges. It needs to demonstrate that we are ready to put right our wrongs and begin to live a better life, one day at a time.
When The Right People Just Show Up
People who have worked the Program Of Miracles talk about the right people showing up at the right time. This relates to the idea that our Higher Power creates situations that bring the people to whom we need to make amends right to our door.
This can come as a surprise or seem to be a coincidence. This is no coincidence, and it’s important to be awake and aware when the opportunities are presented to us as we work this step. The most incredible amends can take place when someone simply turns up and it just spills out of our mouth: I’m sorry for the way I behaved. I never meant to hurt you. I knew no better at the time.
When The Right People Never Show Up
Some of the people we would like to make amends to are not available. They may have died, we may have lost touch or they have removed themselves from our lives. In these cases we find other ways to make amends.
We write a letter we never send, we contact a relative and make the amend or we undertake some voluntary or community work, give a donation or ask for forgiveness from another loving source to help us restore our self belief. If we feel immobilized with guilt, we need to press on with our amends to avoid being disabled. We pray, talk to other Program Of Miracles members and stay focused on our recovery a day at a time.
This step is more than simply making amends for our past actions. This step helps us forgive ourselves and take responsibility for becoming the person we were always meant to be; except now we do these things without guilt or shame because we have a way to make amends for the past and correct our current behavior.
We no longer have to punish ourselves for past deeds, and we have fail-safe methods to deal with unresolved guilt if it emerges again. Our mask of perfection will significantly soften as we admit our wrongs, because we will not need our defensive behavior in the same way.
We begin to understand that admitting our wrongs increases our self-esteem. Our self-forgiveness becomes easier as we let go of past shame and guilt. We approach our own self-harm in the same way we approach how we’ve harmed others.
Not accepting responsibility for our wrongs to others – and us - doesn’t make the life long guilt and shame go away. Working this step does.
GO AHEAD.....TIME TO MAKE YOUR AMENDS