Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Amends revisited

I have a dear friend in the Oakland area, Louisa J., who I have learned so much from over the years. I remember once when I had a few years clean we were talking about amends in a meeting. I had a situation troubling me and I talked to her about it at "the meeting after the meeting."

I knew that a friend of mine was upset with me for something I truly believed was not my fault. I have always been stubborn, and I didn't want to make amends for something I didn't do. I told Louisa this, and she commented, "I've found that even if you didn't do anything wrong, it's sometimes better to apologize anyway in honor of the friendship."

That comment didn't sit too well with stubborn old me. I don't believe I ever made amends in this case, but over the years, I've learned the value of her belief. If an issue is standing between me and another person, I need to talk with them about it. Usually, even if I don't believe I did anything wrong, if they're hurt or upset, it's often better to apologize.

I was talking to a friend the other day who is having a hard time with a family member who continues to throw her behavior in her face despite the passage of many years. What I recommended she say, rather than defending her behavior at the time, was "I'm sorry that you see it that way."

We often get frustrated with people who can't seem to forgive us for our transgressions. We may not feel that we did anything, or the other person won't tell us what we did. Those are tricky amends to make, and I've got catchphrases I use when I don't feel that I've done anything wrong, for example, if by my setting appropriate boundaries I've hurt someone's feelings. "I'm sorry that you feel that way" or "I'm sorry if you were hurt" often covers it.

Amends cost us nothing, yet we stand much to gain by making them. We often gain an understanding of the other person's perspective; we gain humility; and we often gain stronger relationships when we make a heartfelt apology.

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