Making Amends

Part of the Twelve Steps in addiction recovery requires absolute honesty and personal responsibility for the ways that one’s addictions and behaviors have harmed others before becoming sober (Steps 4, 8, and 9). These moral lapses come in the form of lying, manipulating, stealing, blaming, or just plain acting like a jerk to kids, friends, and family! In becoming aware of all moral compromises made in connection to using, and then making the appropriate amends, sobriety is strengthened. The cobwebs of remorse, shame and guilt, that so often lead to relapse, are removed. We learn to forgive ourselves, too, and can experience true freedom from the past.

But you don’t have to be recovering from addictions to get something from the 12 steps. It is, after all, a spiritual program in and of itself.

Making Amends – and The Work of Byron Katie

In a process called The Work, Byron Katie teaches to make an Amends List (like in steps 8 and 9) following these steps:

  1. Make a list of all the people, dead or alive, that you harmed.
  2. Starting with an easiest one, write a letter describing three ways you have hurt him/her.
  3. Make a sincere apology for the past harm. Be sure to watch your language for signs of defensiveness, blame, or excuses.  Remove the words — “if”, “but”, “should” or “because.” Do not make any excuses for what you did.
  4. Make a sincere request for forgiveness and let him/her know you are willing to make it right. Expect nothing from the person whom you are asking forgiveness from. It’s your life you are cleaning up.
  5. Now tell him/her three things they gave you that you are grateful for and thank them.
  6. Read the letter you wrote and as if you have written it to yourself.  i.e., replace the other’s name with your name. Try reading it out loud for maximum benefit.Turning this letter around to you provides the opportunity for deeper self-understanding… which ultimately leads to self forgiveness. Be gentle with yourself as you discover your own innocence.
  7. If you think it will serve and not cause more harm, mail the letter to the person you wrote it to, or share it face to face. It’s up to them whether they decide to read it; don’t expect them to read it, to be grateful, or to be forgiving. This is your life you are clearing up, not theirs.

The turnaround helps you see how your actions have hurt you. Remember – you were doing the best you could at that time.

Forgive yourself. It’s your life. If you don’t turn it around, who will? You’re the one!

Now hug yourself and tell yourself that you love you!

5 Steps to Forgiveness In Any Relationship

Unresolved conflict in any relationship does more than just hurt your feelings. We start becoming blocked in communication, building unconscious walls between us. The spontaneity is forsaken and time together eventually can become, well, dull. What you “let slide” just may do you in over time. Here are some steps that will keep the relationship safe from built up resentments or overly cautious communications.

Step 1: Know What the Issue Is About

It’s common to have hurt feelings and be disappointed – but not know exactly what it’s all about. You must take the time to figure out what happened. Write the answers to the following questions to get clarity.

What happened?  What did you hear or see happen that led to the upset? These are the facts.

What does it mean to you?  Write about what the behavior means to you. This is where we interpret, draw conclusions, or tell ourselves a story about the other’s actions. This is your perception.

How does it make you feel?  When you think ______ do you feel angry? Hurt or sad? Are you afraid of losing something, or afraid of what the behavior might mean?

What would you like to change?  Try to get clear about what it is you want to be different. If its minor, you can formulate a request. If the situation is more serious (He burns dinner when he drinks too much, she spends too much money so bills can’t get paid), then you have to take more serious measures. For situations like this, I recommend therapy. Go with or without your partner, and you will learn how to take care of yourself until he or she has better self-control.

Step 2: Know How to Approach the Other – Explaining it from your perspective.

One way to be sure to make it worse is to tell the other how you feel as though it were FACT. Why? People become defensive when you assume to know what’s going on for them. And how can you? All you can know is your own perspective. The way you word it is more important then you probably think.  If someone who cares about you has hurt you, he or she probably doesn’t understand how you feel.

Try writing down your experience using “I” statements to practice how to say it in a clear, respectful manner.

Practice with the sentence-structures here:

“I felt  ____________ when you ______________________ because I think it means _____________ . I’d like it if you __(request)__.”


“When you ______________ I thought ___________ and felt __________.  I want you to ___________.”


Two-people-talking-1024x1024When you feel clear, you are ready to talk. You will probably feel some anxiety about talking, and it will be less so someday. But for now, accept that you will be somewhat anxious. Do it anyway!

Step 3: Know The Other’s Version of What Happened

It’s important to understand how the other person saw the situation. This also keeps the discussion on a more respectful level, with both of you discussing the problem rather than one person accusing and the other defending.

You may learn that s/he had a completely different take on the situation. When this happens, the solution can be that you have just learned more about the other, and s/he knows and understands more about you. The result is often an increased sense of closeness and compassion.

Step 4: Know You Have a Solution to the Problem

“Okay – So what are we going to do about this?”

If the issue isn’t resolved by understanding each other, then you need to emphasize what you’d like to see change. Remember that it is worth the time it takes, because it will prevent this from becoming a recurring problem. If someone is very hurt, or very defensive, it may take a few discussions to resolve this problem. If you can’t solve it together after a few tries, seek the help of a counselor. You are worth it.

Step 5:  Be Sure Your Forgiveness Is Real

Forgiveness does not mean the other’s behavior was okay. It means you understand because you recognize that all of us are fallible human beings. The good news is that you are willing to do what is necessary to fix the problems, and then forgive each other.

This can be as simple as looking into each other’s eyes and saying “I forgive you.” What’s important is that you communicate that the air is cleared, the hurt forgiven, and the problem is over. You won’t be able to do that honestly if you haven’t done the previous steps.

When both of you take responsibility for fixing these misunderstandings and/or mistakes in the relationship, your trust in each other will grow, and where trust grows, so does love.