Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other topics.
The term “amends” is not used much these days, but when this concept is put into practice, it helps victims forgive the people that hurt them and increases the possibility of reconciliation. Making amends, when possible, is an important part in many 12-step programs such as Celebrate Recovery. There are times, however, that amends may not be possible or will do more harm than good.
Benefits of making amends
- The victim is more likely to get over their anger and forgive the perpetrator
- The perpetrator will be better able to handle the guilt they felt over the wrongdoing
- When the perpetrator is a relationship partner, they may be seen as being more valuable
- The victim feels less at risk of being hurt again by the perpetrator
Examples of making amends include:
- Confessing a transgression
- Taking responsibility for the wrongdoing
- Asking for forgiveness
- Offering financial or other types of restitution
Victim can offer amends by forgiving the transgressors, and telling the transgressors what they need to do to move forward, if anything. Making amends as a transgressor is much more difficult. Transgressors have to take into account the state of mind of the victim, how much to confess without doing more harm, the best time to approach the victim, and any possible restitution that should be offered, if needed.
Scientists at the University of Miami decided to investigate ways that forgiveness is made possible and the effectiveness of amends. Researchers found that there was a relationship between the gestures transgressors offered to their victims and the extent to which victims were able to forgive. The level of more conciliatory gestures were directly proportional to the extent of forgiveness victims felt over time. These gestures also seemed to change the victim’s perception about the aggressor and the relationship to a more positive light.
The story of Jacob and Esau
The story of Jacob and Esau is one example of the making of amends. The two were brothers. Esau, as the older brother, was going to inherit his father's estate, but Jacob used trickery to take away his birthright. Esau held a grudge and was planning on killing Jacob in revenge (Genesis: 27L41).
His mother Rebekah warned Jacob that he was in danger and told him to visit her brother Laban until Esau cooled off.
Jacob was aware of Esau's animosity, but also knew the time had come when they should meet (Genesis 32-33). When the time came, Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to Esau who said: "‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes" (verse 4).
The messengers returned, saying that Esau was coming towards him with four hundred men. Jacob was frightened and in distress at the news. He took some precautions, such as dividing his family, possessions and animals into two groups so that some of his family could survive If Esau attacked.
Jacob prayed to God, saying: "I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted” (vs. 9-12).
The night before the meeting, Jacob selected animals from his flocks as presents for Esau and instructed his servants to go ahead, hoping the gifts would pacify his brother. As Esau approached, Jacob went on ahead of his family and animals and bowed down to the ground seven times.
When Esau saw Jacob, he ran to meet him. Esau embraced him by throwing his arms around his neck and kissing him. They wept together. Esau wanted to return Jacob's gift of the flocks, saying he had enough of his own, but Jacob insisted. Their amends process was complete.
The need for forgiveness
As Christians, there are times when we will hurt others by word, deed, or both. Forgiveness is essential part of being a Christian (Ephesians 4:32). We must forgive others when they hurt us, or God will not forgive our sins.
When we are transgressors, we can forgive ourselves and ask others for forgiveness. We should not take for granted, though, that just because our victims are Christians, forgiveness is automatic and expected.
Christians as well as non-Christians struggle to forgive those who harmed them.
Timing is important
When victims are hurt, they tend to withdraw from the people who hurt them. They will struggle with anger and a desire for revenge just like Esau did. Amends is usually not possible until the victim and the transgressor are both ready to hear and accept one another in a logical way with emotions in check.
A victim will probably want to hear the transgressor acknowledge they have done something wrong and ask for forgiveness if nothing else. However, the victims may have lost trust in the transgressor and are afraid that they will experience more hurt from them if they try to talk about it. As with Jacob and Esau, time must pass before reconciliation is possible.
It may take a long time before victims feel comfortable with having a conversation about the event. Transgressors may feel impatient. They want the situation to be over with and feel closure, but they should wait until victims feel ready to talk about their feelings and possible resolutions.
Confession is good for transgressors and the victims. Transgressors can in part relieve their feelings of guilt and self- recrimination. They also find it easier to forgive themselves and to accept God’s forgiveness. When transgressors approach their victims, they should do so with humility and respect, similar to the way Jacob approached Esau.
Jacob prayed to God for help beforehand to ensure that he was in the right frame of mind before approaching Esau. In the same way, we should turn to God for wisdom and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The victims need to understand that the transgressors are genuinely sorry for what they have done after a confession. This knowledge can kickstart their ability to forgive them. If the transgressor does not fully understand the harm they have done, victims may also find peace of mind by sharing how the transgressors words and/or actions had harmed them. Then victims are assured that the transgressors truly understand and “get” the harm they have done.
Transgressors must be careful what and how they confess however, so that they do not harm their victims. Excuses and justifications get in the away. Transgressors need to focus on confessing their part of the problem.
When amends does not work
Amends needs a number of conditions in order to work. Sometimes attempts at amends can do more harm than good.
Both the victims and transgressors need to acknowledge that a wrongdoing has occurred and that an amends process would be helpful for both of them. They also need to be in the right frame of mind, a process that takes time.
There needs to be calm and a logical approach in place. When strong emotions come into play, people will say and do things that they regret later. Not every situation calls for amends. Some situations may appear to require it on the surface, but when analyzed, amends would do more harm than good.
Amends can be a wonderful tool to overcome anger and hurt, help us to forgive ourselves and others, and restore relationships if we use it correctly.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Carola Finch
CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on August 19, 2014:
Good enlightening read but to amend is hard when only one party is willing. Best bet is to just let go and forgive even though the perpetrator didn't ask for it. And as you said in here, "sometimes attempts at amends can do more harm than good" --so just let go and move on.
Passing this along. Thank you.
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on August 11, 2014:
Very useful hub for anyone, Christian or non-Christian. We ALL of us need to understand how to make amends when we have done something wrong.
Kari on August 11, 2014:
I know that any time I have faced my issues with others head on, I have had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. That is one truth that I have learned over the years: It is much better to talk it out, forgive, and ask for forgiveness than it is to hold it all in.
Crissylite on August 11, 2014:
It's always better to try to make peace, and making amends is big step. Nice hub.
Sima Ballinger from Michigan on August 11, 2014:
The world would be a better place if we could all make amends. You have presented a very important topic here and addressed it well. Congratulations on this Hub.
Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 11, 2014:
Thank you for sharing and your comments. In my opinion, forgiveness should be extended in all situations for my well beinging and that stuffing the emotions is only a temporary fix and does not work long-term. I sometimes have to work in ministry or otherwise with people who have hurt me deeply. Forgiveness means that I do not have any resentment and anger in my heart when I see or deal with these people. I do however, hold people accountable and will take action if they break rules or break the law. I also will put off people who try to make amends before I am emotionally ready to start the process. Blessings, everyone.
Suzie from Carson City on August 11, 2014:
This was a very interesting hub and you've done a superb job of sharing your message in a way that readers can easily comprehend.
This is an age-old topic of discussion with many different points of view. Each individual has their own personal thoughts on this concept and must approach the issue from their level of beliefs, in order to come to an acceptance.
I appreciate and respect your opinions on the practice of "forgiveness" aka "amends" However, within my life experiences of individuals who have transgressed against me, I prefer to turn my back, walk away and block out all thought of their existence whatsoever. I have no need nor desire to offer forgiveness, most certainly if this perpetrator has not shown remorse nor requested forgiveness.
While I may not be a vengeful person, nor consider retribution, it is more than enough benefit to me, to simply mentally and emotionally bury the person and the entire incident.
Voted up and interesting..... pinned and googled. Very nice work.
RTalloni on August 11, 2014:
Congratulations on your Hub of the Day award for this look at an important topic. Glad to see Chris Brauns' Unpacking Forgiveness highlighted here for cover to cover it thoroughly covers the topic and is a tremendous tool for victims, offenders, and counselors. Solutions to problems that come from offenses are crucial to our well-being, but offenses may be mild and the offended may overreact, or offenses may be colossal (even with legal ramifications) and victims may be encouraged to "just forgive" and/or forget. A mature look at situations is needed and you offer some useful insight here.
Taiwo Kareem from Salford on August 11, 2014:
wow, this is a great hub. No wonder it was an Editor's choice
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on July 23, 2014:
Forgiveness is of course the whole key to Christianity. If we can't forgive, The Lord will not forgive us. The Bible says this. It should be in our hearts to forgive anyone, but as you say, some are not always open to it. In a lot of cases, forgiveness helps mostly the forgiver, not the one being forgiven. But it is in this that healing takes place for the person who is doing the forgiving.
Well done and voted up.
Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 22, 2014:
Thanks for your comments. Amends is tough and not for the faint of heart.
mabelhenry from Harrisburlg, Pennsylvania on July 22, 2014:
Wonderful article, "Carolyn Finch". The thing about not making amends and changes in our attitudes is the root of bitterness which can spring up and trouble us and defile others. A speedy response of forgiveness is what every situation needs. The transgression is sin, but the trespass comes first. A trespass happens when we do not respect boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to protect us against being a trespasser. Jesus counsels that we ask the Father to be forgiven our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amending our relationships are of the utmost importance, but respect for boundaries is a precursor to understanding how and why we operated in trespasses which ultimately will lead to trespasses and sins of omission. This hub is ointment and there is healing in your words. Voted up!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 22, 2014:
You're right. It's a word we don't hear to often; but what a pleasant, healing concept it is. Great illustration in the Jacob-Esau story. Thank you for sharing these meaningful concepts.
Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on July 21, 2014:
Excellent hub, Carol. Oh, those amends can sometimes be so difficult.
I think it also important to add that when you forgive your transgressor after owning your part, that does not necessarily mean they are safe people. Sometimes we have to move away from the relationship after the amends process is done. And the other way around scenario might be that you are the transgressor, you make your amends and the person may not forgive you, or will forgive but not wish to reestablish a relationship. Therefore we go in accepting the fact that our apology many not change anything on their part. But you've done your part and God is pleased.