At this point, you’re not going to make a commitment to apologize to anyone – so don’t run off and start doing that! This is delicate work that deserves time, focus and careful attention.
The amends process is common in 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. I agree with their method that your list of amends ought to be carefully considered by you – and someone else you trust. The person who listened to your inventory might be the perfect person to help you with this.
One thing to be careful of when making an amends is that the apology itself ought to do no more harm. Let’s say a woman cheated on her boyfriend – someone she’s no longer with. Looking him up and letting him know, “By the way, when I was with you, I was cheating on you,” may hurt him for no good reason. Choosing whether and how to do an amends requires some challenging judgment calls. That’s why it’s critical to have a trusted partner in this process.
Sometimes an amends is owed to another person, and sometimes you may need to apologize to yourself. You may have made decisions that hurt only you. You may deserve your own “self amends.” Your trusted friend can help you decide what a self amends might be. One popular one is to make a commitment to never do that again.
You may need and want to get creative with this process. If there’s someone you’d like to apologize to but it would do the person harm, you could write an apology and read it to your safe friend only. Or perhaps you owe an apology to someone who has died. Writing and reading a letter out loud could be a way to at least symbolically apologize.
I had a friend who terminated a pregnancy and felt shame and sadeness about that decision. During her amends process she created a ritual by burying a rose. She also gave money to a children’s charity.
Once you have your list of amends, go easy. Respect your comfort zone, your stretch zone and your danger zone in this process. Check in with your safe friend. Be kind to yourself.
I’m thinking of you taking this brave next step.