When we find the humility to let go of pride and see ourselves, our relationships and our past actions as objectively as possible, many of us want to reach out to those we have hurt, make amends and repair those relationships immediately. We want to wipe the slate clean and start living a new life characterized by the new heart which we have received from the Lord as a result of working Steps 1-8. Sometimes, this desire comes to us before we have finished Step 8.
Don’t jump the gun! As it says on page 47 of A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, “We learned, however, that impulsively rushing to make amends without taking time for prayer and perhaps counsel from a trusted adviser … could be as detrimental as not making amends.” In Step 8 we think through and make a plan for our amends. We discuss the plan with a sponsor, bishop, counselor or another trusted adviser to make sure that we do no further damage in our efforts to repair our relationships. As it says in the guide on page 53, “This part of recovery must never lead to the further harm of others.”
In order to work Step 8 successfully we need to complete Steps 6 and 7 to let go of our shortcomings and allow the Lord to heal us. Our loved ones will be more willing to receive our amends if they have seen a change in our behavior and character. In order to have a list of shortcomings to turn over to the Lord in Steps 6 and 7 we need to have done Steps 4 and 5. And in order to be able to complete a thorough written moral inventory we need to be able to trust the Lord to carry us through this hard work. Steps 1-3 help us learn to have that level of trust.
In other words, the steps are in order for a reason. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Of course, if you have already completed Steps 1-9, and are working the “maintenance steps” (Steps 10-12) please make amends, if appropriate as soon as you realize you have caused harm!
Start by Writing Letters
After you have read all of the Step 9 program literature and answered the questions, one approach for making amends is to write a letter to each person on your Step 8 list. You will decide later whether to actually deliver the letter. Regardless, the first thing to do is write it because:
- You can get all of your thoughts and feelings expressed in a coherent form.
- Your ability to do this will not be limited by time, interruptions or the other person’s body language.
- If it doesn’t come out right the first time you can revise it until you are comfortable with it.
- You can look for and remove any blame, guilt throwing, guilt catching, shaming, or justifying.
Once you have written the letters share them with your sponsor or someone else you trust, so that you can get feedback on whether they convey what you are trying to say without containing anything that might be hurtful or misinterpreted.
Another very important thing to pray about and discuss ahead of time is what you will do to actually make amends. An apology is important, but if you have harmed someone you need to try to reverse the damage if possible.
If the person you are making amends to is still a part of your life, and willing to meet with you, it is usually best to talk to them in person. This gives the best possible opportunity for healing to take place. Do not have any expectations from the other person. You cannot predict how they will respond. Turn this over to the Lord ahead of time. The purpose of this meeting is for you to apologize and make amends.
Find a mutually convenient time, when you are not in a hurry. Choose someplace to meet that will be relatively free of distractions and feel “safe” for both of you. Make eye contact during the conversation. Smile, if appropriate. You may choose to read your letter aloud, hand it to him or her to read themselves, or simply share the thoughts contained in it. Just be sure you don’t introduce any complicating issues, get sidetracked, say things in a blaming or accusatory way, or justify or excuse your behavior.
A part of this meeting will be to tell the person what you intend to do to make amends. If you can correct or repair the harm you have done to this person, that would be your amends. Sometimes there is no way to directly repair the damage you have done. This is what Elder Neal A. Maxwell had to say about such situations.
“Sometimes . . . restitution is not possible in real terms, such as when one contributed to another’s loss of faith or virtue. Instead, a subsequent example of righteousness provides a compensatory form of restitution” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 31).
If you cannot meet in person, prayerfully consider whether to send the letter, and make amends directly or indirectly as appropriate. Again, discuss this with someone you trust.
Indirect amends should be made when direct amends are not possible or would create further harm. For example, if the person you harmed has worked hard to put the events behind them and move on, bringing it up again might traumatize them. The Guide explains several options for making indirect amends.
In other cases, you may have no way of making amends directly. The person may be dead, or you may not be able to discover where he or she lives. In such cases, you can still make amends indirectly. You can write the person a letter expressing your regret and desire for reconciliation, even if the letter cannot be delivered. You can give a gift to the person’s favorite charity. You can find someone who reminds you of that person and do something to help him or her. Or you may be able to do something to help a member of the family anonymously. (A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, p. 53)
Remember that the Lord has promised to give you the power to do the things that are “expedient unto Him” if you walk in faith (Moroni 7:33).
- Are you willing to work through Steps 1-8 so that you can have the best chance of healing your relationships by making amends in Step 9?
- What are you willing to do to make amends to those you have harmed?
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