My last post provided the story of an attempt to make amends that did not go well. For my ongoing journey, a couple of important lessons were learned. First, I was indeed willing to enter into this process. Second, I could encounter challenges and face them, not run from them.
Yet, there was a third lesson in that experience that took me a little while longer to figure out: their response to my attempt at reconciliation really didn’t matter.
There is a great feeling of relief that comes when I apologize to someone and they accept my apology. I feel that I have accepted responsibility for my actions, acknowledged my wrongdoing, and stated that I am willing to do whatever I can to make things better.
I approach those conversations with some anxiety and nervousness: what if they reject me? What if my apology isn’t good enough? And there is also the embarrassment of having to talk about the wrong I have done.
So when the person says, “I forgive you,” I feel quite a bit of consolation. However, I had to learn during this process of making amends that the “I forgive you” is not the goal of making amends.
In fact, the goal of making amends does not have a whole lot to do with the person I wronged.
I make amends because it is what I need to do. I need to take responsibility for my actions and acknowledge my wrongdoing and commit to doing whatever I can to be better. Period. I don’t do those things because I need other people to forgive me.
I do those things because that is what I need to do.
It is my responsibility to work towards restoring what I have broken. It is not my responsibility to require a certain response from others. If I only apologize because I expect all people to greet me warmly, I am not apologizing for the right reason.
Making amends is not just about the people I harmed. It is about me learning how to become a better human being. In the process, my relationship with others will likely improve. But that is a secondary benefit.
Primarily, when I consider my journey, I have learned ways that I have hurt other people. I have grown to recognize the need to confess and repent. And I am committing to being a better person. I don’t want to cause the same hurts I have caused in the past. I want to restore what I have broken.
I feel a great sense of relief when others accept my apology. It is affirming and comforting. But I have learned to not make that my goal.
My goal is recovery. My goal is learning how to not break things in the first place. My goal is learning how to confess and repent quicker.
It is indeed a journey. One that I hope continues.