Contributor: W. Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC writer for Addiction Hope
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
In some small way, I combat the impact of evil upon my life by seeking the welfare of others whom I have hurt.
In Step 8 we are preparing to make the amends mentioned in Step 9. There is a lot of power in these two steps. And a lot that goes unsaid.
How do you make amends? What is required mentally, emotionally, relationally? How do you prepare for this?
In an effort to better understand the process of making amends I sought some insight from a person who helps others do this on a regular basis. Jeff McCord, MDiv., has received his certification with Peacemaker Ministries and regularly helps individuals, couples, churches and organizations resolve conflict and learn to live in peace. We spoke about some of the dynamics involved in successfully resolving conflict.
Personal qualities which help you when making amends
It is important to base your identity on what God says about you, not what you think or what others think.
If you go into a situation to make amends and are dependent upon the other person’s approval or acceptance you will be vulnerable to unhealthy dependence or deep disappointment. McCord says that several truths to keep in mind:
- There is nothing in our lives that will be a surprise to God. His love, compassion, kindness or mercy are not at stake.
- If I am honest, I know I have wounded others out of my own woundedness.
- My life matters, both my dignity and my brokenness.
- In some small way, I combat the impact of evil upon my life by seeking the welfare of others whom I have hurt.
Mistakes to avoid when making amends
Here are some common mistakes McCord sees when people go to make amends:
- Not listening – many people “fail to account for the implications of their harm.” In other words they may say, “I’m sorry” but not seek to understand how their actions have impacted people emotionally, relationally, financially or otherwise. “It is important to allow the person harmed to verbalize how it has impacted his or her life.”
- Not allowing enough time – some people, when they go to make amends, expect a quick response. However, many people need time to process what is happening and won’t be able or willing to respond right away. This doesn’t mean they are unforgiving. Give them the space that they need.
- Taking too much blame – making amends can become a pity party for some people. No one wants to watch you beat yourself up. Own they ways you have harmed others but don’t turn the exercise into an opportunity to do penance. It just becomes about you again.
I asked Jeff how he helps prepare people to make amends. He suggests asking the following questions:
- To whom, at this moment, do I need to make amends?
- What have I done, or not done, and what impact did it have on them?
- Were there any other implications of my harm? Material or personal?
The seven A’s of asking for forgiveness
Finally, McCord recommends keeping in mind these seven principles for asking forgiveness from someone:
- Address everyone involved – bystanders may have been hurt just as much as the person you directly harmed. Be sure to think about who may have observed your behaviors and address them as well.
- Avoid “if, but, maybe” – don’t explain, minimize or avoid your responsibility. Face it directly.
- Admit specifically (both attitude and action) – get into the details of how you harmed someone. If you have trouble remembering, ask them. Chances are, they have not forgotten.
- Acknowledge the hurt (empathy and sympathy) – it sounds something like this, “I want to apologize for… how did that affect you?” Listen closely and express your understanding and sorrow appropriately.
- Accept the consequences – these may be relational, financial, or otherwise. This may involve someone continuing to need space from you. Grant it.
- Alter your behavior – make the changes to how you treat the person that are within your control.
- Ask for forgiveness – Don’t just say I’m sorry. After apologizing and asking how your actions affected others, ask them what they need and then ask for forgiveness. “Will you forgive me?” are four of the most powerful words in the English language.
Finally, Jeff shared a quote from the movie The Patriot. In it Mel Gibson’s character, reflecting on his past choices and how they have harmed others, states, “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.”
If we were left to our own devices, our sin would be more than we can bear, but Jeff reminds us, that if we believe the gospel and that Christ bears our sin, then “whatever lies before is for our good.”
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
How have you experienced forgiveness in your recovery? Were you ever surprised by someone’s offering of forgiveness? How long has it taken to rebuild trust?
About the author: Travis Stewart earned a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003), both from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Travis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri and a writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 17, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com