by Bill Peters
Principle 6: Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for I’ve done others, except when to do so would harm them or others. “Happy are the merciful.” and “Happy are the peacemakers.”
You have caused hurt and you have finally recognized that you need to deal honestly with your Christian life, perhaps as you have attended Celebrate Recovery. Time has passed — weeks, months, perhaps even years have passed. How do you approach the family member, your spouse or friend that you have hurt to make amends? You may have lied to them, stolen from them, or abused them. You may have left severe hurt and caused deep wounds. Your initial resistance of not going through the effort of going to the person you have hurt is reinforced by Satan as he tells you it is not that important and offers the lie that time will heal all wounds so why worry about it. But now time has passed, and God’s Word and Spirit makes you realize that you need to take action and reconcile the injury that you have caused. The incident of hurt of the past you have caused has been impossible to forget. You know it aches your mind and troubles your heart as more delay occurs and you do nothing.
In Celebrate Recovery we learn not to be reluctant in making rapid amends to people that we have hurt or harmed. As we decide to take a serious look and take a moral inventory of our lives, we find people whom we have harmed who need to hear amends from us. But making amends is about our personal healing, too. Yes, we need to clean the slate the best we can by making amends to those we have hurt so we can move forward. We are working Principle #6 towards reconciliation by making amends as the Lord has asked us to do.
In the first and now successive workings of doing our moral inventory, we find that we have a list of people with places and things whom we seek to avoid because they remind us of shameful things that we have said or done. These people and these portions of our lives can become closed off to us if we don’t make amends. When we are willing to make amends then we will find that those areas open up again. We find that Principle 6 is much more than forgiveness. We are soon to discover that “it takes a lot of courage to forgive someone but it takes even more courage to ask for forgiveness!”
The three approaches below are helpful to us when we need to make amends to someone that we have hurt. I have learned these ideas in Celebrate Recovery and by reading the book “Life’s Healing Choices” by John Baker but mostly by God’s Word. I pray that you will take the time to read and absorb these three and that they are a help to you.
Make Amends at the Right Time with Prayer: Ecclesiastes 8:6 – “There’s a right time and right way to do everything.” We don’t just drop a bomb on somebody suddenly and go to them unannounced. We don’t just do it when they are rushing out the door or laying their head down on the pillow and say “By the way, I’ve got some stuff to deal with.” We need do it according to their time and not when it’s best for us. We need to pray and set a time when it’s God’s time, when it’s best for them and we need to make it a purposeful time.
Make Amends with a Right Attitude with Humility and Sincerity: Philippians 2:3 – “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” . Too often our attitude will be dominated with shame and fear as we consider facing someone we have hurt. We need to go with the confidence that God is with us.
Make Amends the Right Way by Looking Out for Others: Proverbs 18:6 “And fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.” As I have already stated, one should go to someone that you have hurt with humility and with sincerity. We should look at the other person’s life situation and use wisdom in making amends. We need to pray and consider what is the best way to make amends. Sometimes we could open a whole can of stinking sardines if we make amends to an old boy friend or girl friend. Having had a previous romantic relationship can be a challenge for us to make amends. The other person could have moved forward in their lives and have new relationships and contact with them could cause damage. Sometimes an empty chair or writing an unsent letter is the course of action, especially if the issue caused a significant hurt. In other cases where appropriate, we should make an appointment and go privately to simply say that what we did was wrong and to not make any justification for it and
give no excuses. If we meet with someone,we should not talk about their part but just assume responsibility for our part. Yes, they may have had a part in the problem but our goal is to just try to clear up our side of the ledger. Do not seek to try to justify your actions, either. Our focus is only on our part and we don’t expect anything back from the person t0 whom we are trying to make amends.
I am praying that you find these three steps of making amends both helpful and beneficial to your healing and wholeness as a Christian. To learn more come to Celebrate Recovery on Monday nights in the Filling Station.