How long should you wait before beginning to make amends? By this time, you’ve already resolved to make amends to certain people in your life but you’re probably experiencing many internal conflicts:
- Fear of rejection or mockery
Don’t worry, though, because you’re not alone. You belong to a select group of people who have survived trials that many others can’t begin to comprehend. In the words of Shannon L. Alder, “Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.”
Understanding the Difference between an Apology and Making Amends
Apologizing in our society means saying that you’re sorry. The problem with that, however well-intentioned, is that the subject is your sorrow — how YOU feel. You’re focusing on getting the other person to feel sorry for you and forgive you. Even though you’re addressing the situation, you’ve aimed the spotlight at yourself and your wrong deeds, sins, and shortcomings. Making amends is different because your focus is on the person whose life you disrupted. You recognize their hurting. You feel compassion in your own heart for their suffering. You admit to them that you caused them pain and problems they didn’t deserve. Taking it a step further, you realize that they need to see for themselves that you truly understand. Actions speak louder than words, so you show them by doing things that prove your commitment. Your actions will differ for each individual.
Whether you’re thinking of the Scouts’ Motto or the Lion King song, being prepared is the first step toward success. How do you prepare when you’re beginning to make amends? Follow the path. No matter what program you use to guide you along your recovery journey, you can’t put the cart before the horse.
- Consult with knowledgeable people: Don’t go it alone but express your concerns with others who are experienced with the challenges of making amends.
- Expect and embrace the discomfort: Discomfort is normal when you’re expanding your boundaries, trying new things, or changing your patterns. Power through the pain.
- Listen to your gut: Your experiences have built you, but so have your mind and heart. Pay attention to your gut for insight.
Another technique to prepare yourself is rehearsing. Enact various scenarios out loud by setting up two chairs to practice. Sit in one chair and say your piece as if you were speaking to the person to whom you need to make amends. Then move to the other chair and pretend to be that person. Respond as that person might respond. Move back to the first chair and continue your side of the conversation. Doing this alone and playing both roles will reveal unexpected truths. You can also enact the same scenario twice, one with your most feared outcome, and one with your most desired outcome.
The 9th-Step Lull
Up to now, you deserve every good feeling you’re having because you’ve worked hard to get this far. Some people refer to this stage of your recovery as the “9th-Step Lull” or the “9th-Step Funk.” It’s the lingering break before launching your inner battle to new heights. The 9th Step is confronting the harsh reality of your past face-to-face. Literally. Accepting accountability is tough. Facing other people’s righteous anger about how you made them feel is tougher. Empathy is your acute awareness of others’ suffering. Yes, you’ve suffered a lot but spent much of your life trying to numb it. You might have believed you were helpless to fix it. Moving forward at this point is reaching down into the depth of your heart to release your natural empathy.
Drugs and alcohol temporarily tamped it down but they couldn’t extinguish it. It’s okay now to let it out. Making amends is doing what you can to ease others’ pain. In doing so, you ease your own. Just as teachers plant seeds in the minds of their students but usually never see the trees that grow, so it is with interpersonal reconnections. The conversation may have triggered a lot of difficult emotions but you allowed him or her a chance to vent and release pent-up pain. If you left the conversation with grace, then you did what you were supposed to do. Gently and mindfully opening old wounds causes people to bleed, but then the healing begins for both parties. No matter what the visible outcome, your attempt to sincerely make amends was the right thing to do. If you’ve read this far, you’re ready to begin making amends. We know how you feel and we’re here 24 hours a day to help. Call us at 614-705-0611.