STEP Nine of the 12-Step Program says,
“Made direct amends to such people [I’ve harmed] wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Making amends is something all recovering addicts need to become good at. It’s also something that every Christian needs to become adept at — every human being is called to such a task; a noble one in human terms because it’s a divine mandate.
Making amends, or otherwise, restitution, makes right (or better) what was wrong, where it’s possible. Sometimes making amends isn’t possible, so repentance (the commitment not to do it again) or forgiveness are the only actions available.
But where making amends is possible, it ought never to be done at the risk of hurting other people. Making amends is a loving activity and if our making amends hurts people we’ve failed love.
These are some considerations to ensure our making amends doesn’t make things worse:
1. Our motives for making amends must always be checked. If it’s really to make us feel better we have more thinking to do. But if we make amends in the hope the other person/people will benefit, we have the right bearing to begin with.
2. Once we have the right bearing, next we have the opportunity of prayer; to carry the item of restitution with us for a time. It could be days. It could be months. We’re in a position where we can’t afford to get the approach and delivery wrong.
3. Test the water. We ought to gauge whether they’re in the right position for our making of amends. We can do that by giving them a little heads-up; some idea of what we’d like to do, to find out if it were to be permissible to them.
4. Sometimes the truth will hurt no matter how or when it’s told. But if we’re the perpetrators of the hurt, we’ll do all we can to set up the communication of truth so it protects others, even if that means we have to pay those costs. The simple fact is the truth is more important than the perpetrator’s own protection.
5. At other times we’ll figure that making amends isn’t possible for the time being, or perhaps ever. Too much risk for collateral damage exists. But a making amends that’s viable at all times is simply doing our best to bless the other person’s life.
6. Blessing another person’s life is a matter of interceding for them in our daily prayers, as well as seeking to please them any way we can. If we’ve hurt someone significantly we owe them our safety — to be a safe (non-combative) and affirming influence in their lives. Blessing another person is about relieving burdens, not adding to them.
7. Making significant amends is also a commitment to never hurt this person (or people) like this ever again. This, many times, is a thorough daily re-commitment.
In making amends we must never make things worse. We must not traumatise people. Making amends is improving someone’s life, not making their lives worse.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.