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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making Amends

Nothing can excuse or, in any way, justify my actions during the many, many times I have totally messed up. My lack of control in these situations resulted from my own deficiencies and insecurities. As I  loosed my anger in total disregard, I trod upon others. In my rage, I spoke hurtful words and took spiteful actions that damaged both friend and foe.

Later, after I cooled down, I regretted my rash, unwarranted behaviors. Sometimes I offered the aggrieved a lame apology as a self-centered attempt to make myself feel better. But, the damage had already been done; I had inflicted irreversible harm. I had been terribly, terribly wrong.

Making Amends

I am sure I should attempt to make amends for my wrongdoings. I realize that attempts to rectify something that left deep scars in another may be fruitless. After all, from my own experience, I find it very difficult to express remorse without sounding as if I am making excuses or being self-serving. I never want to do this. I want to take full responsibility for my blunders without shifting the blame or without seeking to be absolved.

I know I deserve to suffer the full consequences of my unacceptable actions. I do, however, realize the importance of reaching out in an attempt to help heal wounds that I have so carelessly inflicted. Sometimes my own pride inhibits this process. Letting my ego stand between between me and obligatory actions is a personal character fault. I know I must better practice humility and dispense with pride.

So, making amends in a correct manner is a step toward helping those I have hurt. Ross Bonander, stress management specialist, ("Making Amends: 4 Steps," offers some practical suggestions for stepping up and making amends. The site:

1. Determine the Scope of Your Wrongdoings

You should develop empathy by looking at your actions from other angles, including the angle of the person you wronged. The hope is to understand how and why your actions hurt the person. Ask some tough questions: "How did my mistake affect their life? Did my mistake cause irreversible damage to this person’s self-esteem/self-worth?"

2. Offer a Carefully Worded Apology

Your apology may need to be repeated to others down the line -- friends, family members, colleagues. To that end, your apology should:
  • Address the mistake itself (“I gave you my word and I let you down”);
  • Address how and why it affected the person to show you fully understand (“What I did has compromised the trust you had in me”);
  • Express your desire not to lose this important relationship (“Your friendship is valuable to me”);
  • Hold no one but yourself accountable -- now is not the time to deflect blame.
Do not offer the promise, “I’ll never do it again” unless you’re prompted. It’s a common trap, an easy way out and a strategic blunder.

3. Suggest Ways To Repair the Relationship

Your suggestions should be relevant to the mistake in an effort to satisfy the person’s sense of needing to see a wrong righted and to indicate that you understand where you went wrong. You need to try to "clean up the mess" you created.

Since you broke confidence, you need to rebuild the friendship over time through actions and activities that indirectly restore that person’s faith and trust in you.

Do not make suggestions that seem like an effort to buy  your way out without true repercussions such as: “Let me take you to dinner.” Additionally, avoid asking questions like, “How can I make this up to you?” or “What can I do to fix this?” They suggest that you don’t understand your mistake.

4. Avoid Repeating the Mistake

You will have to make amends again in the future (this is unavoidable), but preferably not for the same mistake, so reexamine how you made your mistakes and how you can avoid making those same mistakes again.

Understanding Employment and Outcomes

Making amends is not silly, weak behavior. Making a genuine effort to accept responsibility for wrongdoings and to offer reparation is both kind and supportive. This effort exceeds a mere apology in that it attempts to compensate for a loss. Granted, making amends is not easy. It requires that you exercise absolute honesty and extreme caution while offering this compensation. It requires you to do significant, hard work.

Also, patience is a virtue that you must employ as you make amends. Depending upon the severity of the damage you have inflicted and the receptive nature of the aggrieved, your amends may or may be received. Some may need extended time to consider the apology and restitution. Time can truly aid healing.

And remember, some may never acknowledge amends. These people have their personal reasons for ignoring you. This is all right. Forgiveness is unnatural for so many who wish to hold onto the wrongness of others.

When you face the truth courageously as you offer amends, remember that God has your back every step of the way. As a sinner and a human being, you cannot be perfect. You must understand this.You should forgive yourself, make restitution, and move on with life.

Remember, the Bible tells us that we are to forgive, without condition, those who sin against us. Refusing to truly forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a true Christian.

The Rev. Canon William A. Kolb reminds us:

"I believe the reason that God is so forgiving is that God always knows what was in our hearts and minds when we did whatever it was we did that needed forgiveness. God understands our fears, our hurts, and the dark stuff in us that spawns our dark thoughts, words and actions. If we can try to understand what is going on in the person who wrongs us, or if we can believe they would not have done it or said it or whatever, had they not had some pain within themselves, then perhaps it will be easier for us to let go of whatever it is from which we have been withholding forgiveness.

"Another major point about forgiveness: We cannot really forgive others until we can see ourselves as being potentially as sinful as the person sinning against us. Our sinfulness may take very different forms from what others do when they stray, but sin is sin. If I steal and you gossip, can I feel righteous because I have not gossiped? Another way to put that is: I need to know that I am a person in need of forgiveness if I am to be forgiving." (Bill Kolb, "Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us," The Lord's Prayer: An Eight-part Series Exploring Its Meaning Line By Line, Calvary Episcopal Church, 2002)

Bill Kolb's sermon:

"Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make, 
And ev'n with Paradise devise the snake; 
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man Is blackened--
Man's forgiveness give and take!"
--Omar Khayyam

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