Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related 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. Offenders can move on from guilt, shame, and self-blame. Amends also increases the possibility of reconciliation.
Examples of making amends include:
- Confessing a transgression
- Acknowledging the harm that was done
- Taking responsibility for the wrongdoing
- Asking for forgiveness
- Offering financial or other types of restitution
Making amends, when possible, is an important part of 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.
The Story of Jacob and Esau
The story of Jacob and Esau is one example of the making of amends. The two were brothers. As the older brother, Esau 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: 27:41). 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 and knew they would meet eventually (Genesis 32-33). When the time came, Jacob sent messengers ahead to Esau, telling Esau where he had been staying and that his family, servants, and livestock were with him. Then he said: "‘Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes."
The messengers returned, saying that Esau was coming towards him with four hundred men. Jacob was frightened and distressed 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 he was unworthy of God’s kindness and faithfulness to him. He said: “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.” (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 appease his brother. The next day, Jacob went on ahead of his family and bowed down to the ground seven times as Esau approached him.
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 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 and shame 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
Steps for Offenders Offering Amends
The book When Sorry Isn't Enough by Gary Chapman states that all of us make mistakes that we regret. Being sorry, however, is not enough to restore relationships. We may need to offer amends in some cases. Here are steps we can take towards healing relationships.
Forgive Ourselves For Our Offenses
When we are transgressors, we need to forgive ourselves. We need to let go of the guilt and shame associated with offenses.
Let Go of Past Resentment
When we speak to victims about the offenses we committed against them, we should focus on the current situation. Our excuses and justifications, and blaming the victims get in the way of reconciliation. We need to admit our part of the problem and let go of past hurts.
Consider How Offering Amends Will Affect Victims
Making amends as a transgressor is difficult. Amends should not be offered if doing so is harmful to victims. We should take into account the state of mind of our victims. Sometimes, hurt people need some space and time to heal before they can consider reconciliation.
We should not take for granted that just because our victims are Christians, forgiveness is automatic, and trust is fully restored. We should be ready to offer restitution if needed.
Pick the Right Time To Approach Them
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 are usually not possible until the victim and the transgressor are ready to hear and accept one another in a logical manner with emotions in check.
Victims may have lost trust in transgressors and are afraid that they will experience more hurt from offenders if they try to talk about their feelings. As with Jacob and Esau, time usually must pass before reconciliation is possible. We may feel impatient. We want the situation to be over with and feel closure, but we should wait until victims feel ready to talk about their situation and possible resolutions.
Acknowledge The Harm That Has Been Done
If we do not fully understand the harm we have done, we should ask victims about it. Victims may find peace of mind by sharing how the transgressors' words or actions had hurt them. When victims realize that the transgressors are genuinely sorry for what they have done, this knowledge can kickstart their ability to forgive and begins to restore their trust.
Confession should not happen if doing so harms victims. We must be careful what and how we confess. Confession can be a powerful way to restore relationships. When transgressors approach their victims, they should do so with humility and respect, similar to how Jacob approached Esau.
Jacob prayed to God for help beforehand to ensure that he was in the right frame of mind before meeting Esau. In the same way, we should turn to God for wisdom and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Offer Gestures of Reconciliation
Researchers at the University of Miami found a relationship between the gestures transgressors offered to their victims and the extent to which victims could forgive. The level of conciliatory gestures was directly proportionate to the extent of forgiveness victims felt over time. These gestures also seemed to change the victim’s perception of the aggressor and put the relationship in a more positive light.
Steps For People Who Were Offended
Forgive The Transgressors
Victims can offer amends by forgiving the offenders. As Christians, there are times when we will hurt others by word, deed, or both. Forgiveness is an essential part of being a Christian (Ephesians 4:32). We must forgive others when they hurt us, or God will not forgive our sins.
Tell Perpetrators What We Need From Them
We need to tell transgressors what they need to do to move forward, if needed.
When Amends Does Not Work
Amends needs several conditions 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 help both parties. They also need to be in the right frame of mind, a process that takes time.
There needs to be a calm and 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 amends on the surface, but it would do more harm than good when analyzed.
The Book Making Amends: Finding a new freedom contains stories of people who successfully made amends for the harm they had done while dealing with substance addiction.
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.
The Holy Bible, New International Version
Getting Right With God, Yourself, and Others
Celebrate Recovery, Participants Guide 3
Do Apologies Help? Psychology Today, Glenn Geher
The power of an apology, University of Miami
Making Amends Part 2, By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir, Discipleship Tools
© 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 United States 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.