Making amends adequately is truly a challenging enterprise. It demands a lot of mindfulness. And it requires proper motivation and attitude. To do it right, you have to take great care. Sometimes, you can reopen unhealed wounds. And you might even inflict new injury, all without intending to do so.
The task we’re talking about here involves much more than merely being sorry. It’s one thing to feel badly about something you did that hurt someone. It’s quite another thing to do the painstaking work of repairing the damage you inflicted. But that’s what real loving is all about.
Wholesome characters regard the work of repair only partly as a duty. We all make mistakes. But persons of good character reckon with their mistakes. Moreover, when they injure, they feel an obligation to repair the damage. And the work itself serves as a testament to the quality of their love. Still, it’s not just duty that drives the genuine lover. The genuine lover lives to love. And real love is inherently work – laboring on behalf of another’s welfare.
Accepting Responsibility Is Only the Beginning
Admitting fault is part of making amends, to be sure. But it’s only the beginning. These days, a lot of folks claim they’ve accepted responsibility when what they really mean is that they can no longer deny they harm they’ve done. Really accepting responsibility goes far beyond merely “fessing up.” It necessarily involves accepting the duty to repair the damage, as best as possible.
In intimate relationships, some damages are extremely hard to repair. Breaches of trust are among those. They often require heroic efforts on the betrayer’s part. Cutting words, whether or not they’re said in the heat of passion, can also leave lasting marks. And the wounds inflicted by the damages mentioned here can take years to heal. The truly contrite person fully understands and accepts this. And they engage in the work of repair willingly, not grudgingly. Moreover, they take particular care not to inflict the same injuries again.
Real Growth Begins with the Decision to Grow
In business there’s a formula for moving forward: Decide, Plan, then Act. Moving forward, therefore, necessarily begins with the decision to move forward. But even the most thoughtful plan and dedicated action are not enough for success. You have to assess and re-assess, modify your plan, then act again.
The formula for growing in character is much the same. First you have to decide to do better and to be better. Then you have to have a reasonable plan for accomplishing the task, and to act faithfully on that plan. But it all starts with the decision. And that’s a matter of the heart. You have to swallow all false pride and honestly reckon. I talk about this at great lenth in Essentials for the Journey. And I talk about the genuine challenges folks face when seeking the help to truly change in this week’s Character Matters podcast.
I’ll have more to say on all of this next week.