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.

The New Year; A Path to Reconciliation

"Ring out the old, ring in the new. Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true." ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

A celebration of this New Year of 2019 gives us the unique opportunity to reflect.  We have experienced triumph and defeat, joy and sorrow, abundance and loss.  Our personal lives have been changed.  We are a bit older and more experienced.  Our reminiscences of the year should include both the good and the harm we might have done. This is a good time to sort it all out. It will give us a chance for reconciliation and new beginnings.

Sometimes we leave damage in our wake despite the best intentions. People have feelings that are hurt because we were somehow thoughtless or reckless.  We have done or failed to do things that have hurt relationships.  This creates a need for making amends. We must first admit our wrongdoings, apologize, and then proceed to set things right. By so doing, we make ourselves vulnerable and take down the walls that separate us. Finally, we pledge to refrain from repeating the damaging behavior in the future.

A Path to Reconciliation

The healing that springs forth from reconciliation is beyond our greatest expectations. We begin to live a life without regrets. Trust and harmony become the cornerstones of our relationships. We find ourselves as the benefactors and recipients of love and compassion. We build coalitions instead of seeking isolation. Diversity is no longer frightening. There is always a path to reconciliation.  Nothing is so important that it should stand in the way of this miraculous process. What a terrific way to turn the page to a new year. Let’s do it...and set the stage for a Happy New Year.

“Le present est gros de l'avenir.” (The present is big with the future) ~ French Proverb