When Making Amends Doesn’t Work

My first attempt at making amends did not go so well.

In the 12 step process of recovery, step 9 is making amends to the people we have harmed. It is a difficult part of the journey; it involves humility, confession, repentance. It is never easy to walk up to someone and say, “I acknowledge that I have wronged you in this particular way. I am committed to changing my life and ensuring I never do that thing again. Is there any way I can repay you for what I have done?”

There is a lot of healing that comes with the amends process. Taking responsibility for one’s actions allows us to be free of the fear that comes from trying to hide what we have done. Learning the difference between humility (willing acknowledgement that the world does not revolve around me) and humiliation (being shamed) is vital to our growth in sobriety. Developing the courage to face up to the conflict in our lives and restore relationships instead of hiding in a bottle allows us to maintain and grow in our health.

So for me, the first time I made an attempt to sit down and meet with a couple of people to make my amends, I felt I was ready. I had written their names on my list. I had discussed it with my sponsor. I had prayed about it. I had become willing. I set up a time and place to meet. I arrived. I spoke honestly about what I had done. I apologized. I committed to doing better.

And they brushed me off. They essentially said, “Whatever.” They pointed to a couple of decisions I had made (sober decisions for the good of my family and myself) and said they disagreed with them. Instead of talking with me about ways to restore the relationship, they actually said things that drove a deeper wedge in the relationship.

(Quick note to say two things: I am going to address this more in Monday’s post, so be sure to keep reading! Also, although this particular meeting did not go well, reconciliation did occur–it just took a little bit longer.)

As I left, I remember feeling defeated and deflated. I remember asking myself what exactly the point was if this is how these conversations were going to go.

And I spoke with my sponsor about it. He told me he was not surprised. He actually anticipated the conversation going the way it did.

I remember being a little miffed with my sponsor that day.

But he asked me to recognize some important things: I was ready to have these conversations regardless of their outcome. I was willing to have these conversations no matter how scared I might have been.

The work of reconciliation is rarely easy. Some days, our messages will not be received the way we hoped. Some days, we will be reminded of even more wrongs that we have done. Some days, people will just be too hurt to hear us.

But we have been preparing. We have been praying. We have been intentional in listing the people and the harm. We have become willing.

So we still enter the room. We still make our confession. We still make our pledge. And regardless of the outcome, we prepare for our next conversation.

2 thoughts on “When Making Amends Doesn’t Work

  1. 40 Day Journey: 5th Sunday Wrap-Up – A Second Time Paul

  2. Healing Through Seeking Forgiveness – A Second Time Paul

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