When we have forgiven wrongs done to us or acknowledged wrongs we have done, there is still more work to do. We must find a way to heal the separation.
The 12 Step tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous devotes two steps specifically to this process. They are:
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
We don’t need an addiction to benefit from these steps. We have all wronged others at some time. If we look carefully at our past behavior we will find the evidence. Some of us, for whom guilt is a constant companion, will have no trouble coming up with a list of personal failings and wrongs done. Others of us may need to work through our denial and selective memory to acknowledge our wrongs.
Making amends may take courage. Wisdom too. We must find the appropriate way to make amends, and we need to know when it is appropriate to do so. Step 9 specifies that we would not make direct amends when to do so would injure someone. If making amends means disturbing someone else’s life or otherwise causing them pain or embarrassment, we had best keep quiet and simply work on our own behavior and attitudes.
When we are the victim of wrong doing, reconciliation may be the necessary step after forgiving. This may involve confronting the person who harmed us and doing it in a way that is not dominated by anger. Helping that person to understand the effects of their actions, and doing so in a spirit of forgiveness can be healing to both parties. Again, the confrontation requires courage and wisdom. Sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. We must judge if the dialogue will cause more harm than benefit. If we confront the other out of a desire for retribution or if it will merely deepen our own wounds, perhaps we had best refrain.
These are things to meditate upon and to pray about.
Think about harms you have done to others.
What might you do to make amends?
Would making amends cause further harm?
Are you willing to do what is right?
Reflect upon ways you have been injured.
Have you been able to forgive the person who injured you?
Might there be some benefit in communicating with that person about this?
What would be the best way to do this? In person? By phone? In writing?
What would be gained by the communication? What might be lost?
What would be lost by staying quiet? What might be gained?
Examine your feelings as you ask these questions.
Do you feel anger?
Do you seek retribution?
How does fear fit into your decisions?
When you have a need for reconciliation, but it is not wise or not practical to resolve your issue in person, you can do some of your emotional work through visualization. Calm yourself. Breathe calmly. Relax. Imagine you are in a safe place of your choosing. See the surroundings clearly in your mind. Surround yourself with healing, protective white light. In your imagination, bring the person you need to talk to into your presence. Get a clear image of them in your mind and talk to them about your history together. Tell this person about your feelings and listen for their response. What is important for them to know about you? Tell them. How do they respond? You may ask for their forgiveness or offer your forgiveness of them as circumstances warrant. Within the safety of your heart and mind resolve your issues and seek healing. See and feel a resolution. Allow your heart to heal.
Grant that I might see myself clearly in my faults and my strengths.
Grant that my heart be open to forgiving myself and those that have harmed me.
May all wrongs be reconciled.
May all painful separation be healed.
Book of interest: Twelve Steps for
CompuCare Publishers, Revised 1990.
© 2002 Tom Barrett