More About Amends

by Bill

I wrote in a previous post (the 2nd one down, I believe) about things that we need to accomplish before undertaking to make amends to others. defines amends as compensation for a loss or injury, as do most dictionaries that I’ve checked. To make amends is to do more than simply say, “I’m sorry.”  If something is serious enough to require amends, it is serious enough to consider carefully how the amends is to be made.

Compensation implies that we are going to do something to level the scales — to make things right.  Just saying the words doesn’t cut it.  We have to remember that amends are about clearing up the “wreckage of the past” so that we can live our lives with a clear conscience.  We all intuitively know that a simple “sorry” for making a mess in someone else’s life really isn’t sufficient.  If we don’t actually take steps to repair or otherwise compensate for what we’ve done, we aren’t going to be able to move beyond our misdeeds, and if we think that’s okay, we need to go back at least as far as Step Three and start over.

Real amends are right for the relationship.   If it was a business relationship, the amends may be one thing, if emotional it may be another.  A personal relationship may require a face to face meeting, a carefully written letter, or perhaps both.  Phone calls and texts are a last resort.  Generally they do not confer the sense of formality that we want to project.

The Eighth Step will show us what needs to be done, and the way we need to go about it.  A proper amends must involve a heartfelt apology, along with an offer to make things right in a way that is satisfactory to the person who was harmed.  Then it must be followed up by action, as appropriate.  That might be a monetary repayment of monies embezzled from a business, a donation to a charity (in cases where direct recompense isn’t possible) or other means.  At all times the other person must be taken into account.  We need to consider their life, and be sure that we don’t cause more problems than we solve.

Our own lives, too, are a consideration.  If admitting to embezzlement would result in legal consequences that could destroy my life and that of my family, that would hardly be conducive to my recovery (which, you may recall, is the point of this whole exercise).  A more appropriate approach would then have to be considered.  It’s also possible that we could open up a can of worms that the other person would then have to deal with — involving old relationships and current ones, for example.  In some situations, even our presence could open up old traumas that the person might have put behind them.

In such cases, and in others where the person is no longer available to receive the amends, we may need to make “Silent Amends,” which means to take action in reparation without the knowledge of the other party altogether.  An example might be regular donations to a rape center, as amends for having taken advantage of someone sexually, or volunteering at a homeless shelter.  Other ideas will certainly come up during consultation with our sponsor, and perhaps a therapist or other helping person, and their counsel will allow us to arrive at appropriate ways to accomplish any amends, whatever that might entail.

Finally, we need to remember that the very best amends — especially to our loved ones and friends — is to continue our successful recovery and become the person that they’ve always wanted in their lives, instead of the one for whom they’ve had to settle.

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