Making Amends; The Joy of Reconciliation

Amends making, though often difficult, is a great equalizer and healer. The harm done by our words and actions can leave hurt feelings and deep wounds. If left unattended, they can destroy relationships. But when we are able to own our mistakes and take responsibility for damage done, we will experience the joy of reconciliation.

The familiar promise "first, do no harm" is attributed to the Hippocratic Oath which some doctors pledge in medical school. It isn't universally made by the way, and practically impossible to fulfill. How could any person live up to such a creed. We are human and fallible. At a time when other organizations seem to be adopting 'do no harm', we might want to step back and take a closer look at what that phrase might entail. If I was to create comic book characters for the no harm doctrine they would be Expectation Man and Assumption Woman. Their super power would be perfection in all things. Since we are not perfect, it's a sure thing that we will do some harm, inflict pain, and blunder from time to time. The difference between a brute who leaves life strewn with wreckage and a person of conscience who cleans up mistakes is the real-life super power of making amends.

There are plenty of mistakes, wounds and regrets that reside in the fog of yesterday. The promises of today will remain enshrouded in them without our active participation.

So how does one go about making amends? The folks of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) seem to have it nailed. Seven of their 12 Steps show how. A member of that organization once told me if one was to boil the steps down into six words, they would be Trust God. Clean House. Help Others. He went on to say that if there is no housecleaning the former and later are impossible. Anyway, the process comes down to taking a personal inventory, admitting the nature of your wrongs, and then going directly to the people who have been injured, accepting responsibility for damage done. Forgiveness along with the chance for restored relationships becomes a possibility. And the relief experienced on both sides is what I call the joy of reconciliation.

In this era of increasing polarization, name calling, and hate-speak there is lots of harm being done. Family members and friends are distancing themselves...each taking up their own assumed moral high ground. When those who have stirred up all of this divisiveness are long gone we will be left in isolated and lonely places. Perhaps adopting the 12 Step model would be a plan. Start out by admitting to yourself the mistakes which have done harm. Then try to make them right (or as AA people say ‘Do the Next Right Thing’). Remember, making those amends will result in the joy of reconciliation.