Make Amends

Why it is Important for You to Make Amends & How it Helps for Effective Recovery

What Does It Mean to Make Amends?

The traditional dictionary definition of making amends is to “correct a mistake that one has made or a bad situation one has caused.” This is a frequent topic of discussion for people once addicted to alcohol or drugs, and for people with mental health disorders. One vital point often discussed is whether extending an apology is the same as making amends. Not precisely—while both are reasonable efforts, the difference lies in someone’s intentions. Some situations may require both an apology and an effort to make amends.

What Is an Apology?

When asked, “What is an apology?” most psychologists agree that learning to apologize with genuine grace is something everyone should know. We’ve all crossed a line at one point with our actions or behaviors by unnecessarily hurting another person or inadvertently making a mistake that requires an apology.

Apologies help establish renewed trust between people by creating a path to better communication. Experts say an authentic apology has these two primary points:

  • It demonstrates remorse regarding a particular action or behavior.
  • It acknowledges that specific activity or behavior caused someone else to feel hurt.

An apology allows an individual to hear what another person feels, determines what action or behavior is or isn’t appropriate, and provides an opportunity for the hurt person to heal. In addition, by taking on the responsibility to sincerely apologize, an individual builds self-confidence and reinforces personal integrity.

Making amends is a crucial part of recovery for mental health. It allows the individual to feel the belongingness once again.

Maybe you have trouble apologizing. You’re not alone. It takes courage not only to admit a wrongful behavior or action but also to face the fact that someone else suffered consequences as a result.

Psychologist Guy Winch says one reason why “non-apologists” have challenges saying “I’m sorry” is because they have difficulty “separating their actions from their character: if they did something bad, they must be bad people.” While this isn’t usually the case, it still threatens their self-esteem and identity.

In a Psychology Today article, Winch also explained that guilt and shame play a large part in the struggle to apologize. “Guilt makes us feel bad about our actions, and shame makes non-apologists feel bad about their selves.” Additionally, he said that extending an apology is often challenging for some people because they fear that it’ll create more conflict if they say something.

12 Tips For You To Make Amends With Yourself

1. Focus on your emotions

One of the first steps in learning how to forgive yourself is to focus on your emotions. Before you can move forward, you need to acknowledge and process your emotions. Give yourself permission to recognize and accept the feelings that have been triggered in you and welcome them.

2. Acknowledge the mistake out loud

Make Amends
Before you ask or seek forgiveness from your loved ones, consider making amends with yourself as well for self-healing.

When you give a voice to the thoughts in your head and the emotions in your heart, you may free yourself from some of the burdens. You also imprint in your mind what you learned from your actions and consequences.

3. Think of each mistake as a learning experience

Reminding ourselves that we did the best we could with the tools and knowledge we had at the time, will help us forgive ourselves and move forward.

4. Give yourself permission to put this process on hold

If you make a mistake but have a hard time putting it out of your mind, Pickell says to visualize your thoughts and feelings about the mistake going into a container, such as a mason jar or box.

Then, tell yourself you are putting this aside for now and will return to it if and when it will benefit you.

5. Have a conversation with your inner critic

Journaling can help you understand your inner critic and develop self-compassion. Pickell says one thing you can do is write out a “conversation” between you and your inner critic. This can help you identify thought patterns that are sabotaging your ability to forgive yourself.

You can also use journaling time to make a list of the qualities you like about yourself, including your strengths and skills. This can help boost your self-confidence when you’re feeling down about a mistake you made.

6. Notice when you are being self-critical

We are our own worst critics, right? One important action tip is to notice when that harsh voice comes in and then write it down. You might be surprised by what your inner critic actually says to you.

7. Quiet the negative messages of your inner critic

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the thoughts that are getting in the way of forgiveness. If you’re struggling to sort out your inner critic, you may try this exercise:

  • On one side of a piece of paper, write down what
    your inner critic says (which tends to be critical and irrational).
  • On the other side of the paper, write a
    self-compassionate and rational response for each thing you wrote on the other
    side of the paper.

8. Get clear about what you want

If the mistake you made hurt another person, you need to determine the best course of action. Do you want to talk to this person and apologize? Is it important to reconcile with them and make amends?

9. Take your own advice

If you’re having a difficult time working through this in your head, it can help to role-play with your friend. Ask them to take on your mistake. They will tell you what happened and how they are struggling to forgive themselves.

10. Quit playing the tape

It’s human nature to spend time and energy replaying our mistakes. While some processing is important, going over what happened again and again won’t allow you to take the proper steps to forgive yourself.

11. Show kindness and compassion

If your first response to a negative situation is to criticize yourself, it’s time to show yourself some kindness and compassion. The only way to begin the journey to forgiveness is to be kind and compassionate with yourself.

This takes time, patience, and a reminder to yourself that you’re worthy of forgiveness.

12. Seek professional help

If you’re struggling to forgive yourself, you may benefit from talking to a professional. Talking to a counselor can help you learn how to break these unhealthy patterns in your life and learn new and healthier ways of coping with mistakes. [1]

The Importance of Making Amends

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) first implemented the concept[2] of “making amends” for people in recovery as a means by which to “amend behavior.” In many situations, a sincere apology may be all another person requires to believe you want to regain trust in a relationship and understand what they went through.

However, in other circumstances, showing remorse and acknowledging how you made another person feel is only the first step. The next is demonstrating with positive, corrective action that you intend to do the right thing. Sometimes, this may be a simple directive, such as “Is there anything I can do to make this up to you?”

But, you may also have to be prepared to make more constructive and tangible changes in your relationship that allow the other person to feel heard and understood and redevelop trust in your future actions and behavior. Again, Mindtools offers an example[2]: “From now on, I’m going to manage my stress better, so I don’t snap at you. And I want you to call me out if I do this again.” Again, learning to break the pattern is critical to healing.

Make Amends
Making amends involves words as well as deeds.

Everyone will struggle with these approaches at one time or another. For someone in recovery, the challenge of making amends might have additional complications. Case in point, steps 8 and 9 of AA’s 12-Step program deal with this:

  • Step 8: Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and be willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to injure them or others.

It may not be easy to accept that you’re not always going to be able to make amends to people who you’ve wronged in some way. While you may be willing to try, they may not. Prior behaviors and actions might too test some to need space. Or the people you need to apologize and make amends to are no longer living. Regardless, you’ll have to come to terms with this, acknowledge any wrongdoing—even if it’s a private entry in a daily journal—and adjust your behavior or action as not to harm anyone else in the same ways.

Some psychology experts claim it’s never too late to extend an apology and make amends. In an article for Experience Life[3], author Tamar Chansky said that occasionally, time is on your side when apologizing and making amends. “Given the time that’s passed, you could so easily have not apologized, but you did,” she said. “The fact that you are making the effort now only increases the significance of the making an effortology never ‘goes bad.’”

Christine Carter is a senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at California, Berkeley. She simplifies the approach for a proper apology[4] and makes amends this way: “Tell them what you feel, admit your mistake and the negative impact it had, and make the situation right.”

How Making Amends Helps You

Whenever we consciously understand that we’ve hurt someone, it cuts to the core. Taking action to amend that certainly helps the other person. It also heals you. It’s all too easy to have our efforts criticized by others and judged mercilessly by our internal jury. Are we bad people—or simply human beings learning to make better choices?

Through techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-Step programs, and other methods, our experts help you move beyond the negative aspects of addiction and into a better understanding of who you are and who you’re meant to be.

At We Level Up FL Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about making amends and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

Sources

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-forgive-yourself#11.-Show-kindness-and-compassion

Yale Street Therapy -https://www.yalestreettherapy.com/blog/2018/5/1/when-saying-sorry-isnt-enough-by-ashley-graber-lmft

[2] Mind Tools – https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/how-to-apologize.htm

[3] Experience Life -https://experiencelife.com/article/making-amends/

[4] Greate Good – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_three_parts_of_an_effective_apology

[5] NCBI –https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=Making+Amends