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.
5 thoughts on “Making Amends Reveals Character”
I’m in repair mode with my daughter after years of a horrible relationship mostly due to her drug use, which lead to other abuses and neglect of her son, of whom I took over to raise.
For six months I stepped away from her and stressed that I’d have no further contact with her unless it regarded her son, that I would not take being her victim of abuse.
She has changed her life now in a way that she and I can talk and have a relationship again, but we are both trying to be respectful and avoid old patterns of behaviors. It takes two to make it work. I honestly didn’t think I’d see this change, but I have. I can see the young woman she was before her life took a bad turn.
We still have our moments but we both tend to step back and stop ourselves from engaging in behaviors that are hostile. It does take effort to not fall back on old patterns of communication.
To add to this, she has regained custody of her son and is doing well.
Lucy that’s a beautiful story.
I read these articles and I’m intrigued. I have a few relationships that need repair. I am open. I see how my past actions affected the relationship negatively and what I’d have to change to repair, restore the relationship. I am truly sorry for the damage that was done to all of us. One of the individuals is just not ready. What I have come to accept is that character means when another says they can’t go there yet, that true love has to accept that.
I think you’ll eventually get to the point of repair. The other will see the changes in your life and when ready will try the relationship.
I was very cautious about stepping back into it and we are treading slowly. I can still myself guarded, but that’s what trauma does to a person.
I wish you the best.