Thursday, July 30, 2009

What if amends aren't accepted?

Findon recently had a really good post on making amends. His post reminded me of the first living amends that I made. My sponsor told me to make amends to myself first which I did. I made a decision that I needed to take better care of myself spiritually and emotionally. Only then did I proceed to approach others.

My first living amends was to a friend with whom I'd had a falling out years earlier. It's not important what it was about, other than to say in retrospect it revolved totally around two large egos (his and mine) butting against each other.

So I rang him up (he lives in another state) and told him that I wanted to put things right between us. I told him that I had been obstinate and prideful. To my surprise, he was pleased to hear from me, said that he had missed our comraderie, and wanted to get together when he next came to the area. Sure enough, he did come down and we went out to dinner. To this day, we have the ability to laugh and to be comfortable with each other in a meaningful way.

But what do you do when you make an amends and it isn't accepted? I had that happen with the second person that I met face to face with. It was Christmas and somehow all seemed right in my mind and heart for making amends. The fellow had been my closest friend until he found out about my wife's alcoholism and my struggles to deal with that. A wedge in our friendship grew into a gap and then a large hole formed. He didn't want to listen to what I had to say. And so I had no choice but to accept what he said and acknowledge that this friendship was over.

This result was one that my sponsor had warned me about. Not all amends will be graciously accepted, not all will be reconciled for the other person. What is important was my willingness to make amends. If someone does not accept my intention, then I need to let it go. I have done my part.

I think that willingness to change my behavior is the key to making an amends. I need to get honest about my character defects and become willing to give them up. I needed to transform my attitude in order to make a sincere amends. Otherwise, I am just a hollow man speaking hollow words.

The amends I made were my first attempt at restitution. With my wife, I talked to her about how much my old behavior had been selfish and motivated by my fears. I have changed my behavior to be much more at ease, accepting, and humble with her and others in my life. Whenever things get tense or stressful, I remember that I have a choice about how to react. I prefer to not revert to my old behavior but to look to my Higher Power for guidance. I need to live the words that I spoke during the amends.

I believe that by being mindful of my attitudes and by accepting that the Twelve Steps represent a permanent way of life, I can live differently.


  1. Amends can bring up all sorts of interesting feelings on my part and responses on the other's part. My greatest blessing regarding amends was the chance to heal a relationship with my ex 2 months before he died. If I continue to show up, my HP continues to guide me.


  2. I am overwhelmed by gracious honest manner of speaking. I feel it is better to make ammends through the giving and asking for forgiveness. Not everyone is going to like me all the time and that is fine. I have to choose to want a better life with sobriety & honesty and above all, faith. If those around me choose anything less or push me to want more, I have to be calm and tolerent. It is not my place to judge how or why someone holds onto the things they do. It's my job & comittment to work around the snags it presents.

    A person can genuinely accept an apology and still say, this friendship is not for me. OUR job as recovering or co-dep's is to graciously accept. It helps when the unforgiving can clearly tell you why they feel the friendship needs to end. I see it as an act of maturity for them to do so. How does it benefit anyone to say, "I dont' want to be friends" (in short obviously) and then state why. This way, we may grow as individuals. It can either present as a real issue or it could be a frivolous issue on their end. It always helps to know which.

    There are some people who feel a self sense of importance and say "I dont' have to explain myself to anyone" and that is just cold and childish. Why wouldn't they want you to know if in fact your are building your character up for improvement.

    I'm sorry i'm babbling but this jsut happened to me 2.5 weeks ago and it sucks. There is no nice way to put it. But, in the end Syd, you recognizing the difficulties it presents is a hopeful step no matter how it was handled or the outcome. Stay true to you.

  3. Wonderful post Syd. We have to do our part, but then we have to be okay with leaving it at that. However the other party choses to respond is their choice and we have no control over that and we shouldn't try to.

  4. Excellent post!
    I have found that thinking about how the amend will be taken is much worse than actually doing it!

  5. I really like this post Syd! I have been thinking about this very subject for awhile, considering that one person that I should make amends with, HATES me and would never even accept my apology and it might make the situation worse. She doesn't accept any responsibility for her part in the issue either. So, I guess I will just have to handle it differently and I will have to talk with my sponsor about what to do when I get to that place. Blessing to you Syd! Lisa

  6. I love that you never used the words apology or sorry. To amend means to acknoledge an error (I was wrong) and to correct that error (I am willing to change so it doesn't happen again).

    As always...much thought and depth in this post. Thank you Syd.

  7. Thank you for the kind nod Syd. This is a good post on the topic of Step 9. I believe that making an amends is my part of the bargain. The other side of that bargain is my relationship with God. The person I have wronged is in a way a conduit between me and God. Of course it is good if they accept the amends and relationships are restored. But that in my belief is not the primary purpose of Step 9. If the wronged person continues to hold animosity or anger against me, and I have fulfilled my part, by making amends and restitution where appropriate, then that is their side of the street and not mine. I have fulfilled my duty as God prescribed and I must leave it there.

  8. Of all my amends, only one was not accepted. although it was painful, particularly after having such positive experience with all the others, i realized that trying to force an amends on someone unwilling to receive it was just more of me being controlling and demanding, 2 character defects that I was trying to let go of. that amends has always stuck with me as it made me take a hard look at what exactly is a true amends

  9. This post could not have come at a better time for me, so for that I thanks you Syd. I need to get over the fact that some people just do not accept amends. I need to keep telling myself that lately.

  10. I had an amend that went exceptionally well, the other person and I are friendly. He has said several times he wanted to stay closer in touch, but has never kept to that. At first I wanted to keep persuing that relationship, but it wasn't up to me. While disappointed, I have to let that be what it is.

  11. Great post... it answered the question that's been bothering me.

  12. Thank you, Syd. As always, there is a lot of wisdom in this post, to which I'm grateful for. I'm learning a lot from you and several other bloggers. My journey feels quite "young," and I appreciate reading others who are further down the road...

  13. Being mindful and making amends is great ... even though sometimes this is not reciprocated. Nothing personal, just the way the world is. Good post yet again, Syd. K x

  14. amends are never easy, but worth it. even if only to ease your own conscious. and totally wonderful if well received. sadly we can win em all.... but we have to at least try.

  15. Great post Syd, we should all try to focus on the feelings of the person who was hurt, not our own feelings, I think that is the biggest effort. we all make mistakes but not everyone learns from them.

    TY for this thought and have a great weekend:}

  16. Syd,
    This was a very helpful post. I think it is important to remember that we can't always change a situation, and we have to just do our best as people and then try and let it go. Sometimes all you can change is your attitude, not the situation.

    Thank you for your words.

    You are loved, SB.

  17. Thanx for sharing your experience - my experiences are similar.

    In retrospect, some of the amends that had the best impact on me and my spiritual path were the ones that were not all that well received.

    Blessings and aloha...

  18. you truly are a vision of hope. going backwards here but statistics are so sobering, pardon the pun, but true if you look at the crime today and wonder what is wrong with the world. self will run riot and all we can do is work on us- powerlessness is such a bitter pill at times. i love this post about amends and finding the willingness through working out our own character defects. i am just beginning to work my first 7th step and this really aleves' a lot of fear.
    as for my tomatoes haven't had many to do anything with, critters of the nocturnal breed are ravaging them, i lost 12 already, i put blood meal down 2 days ago and so far no lost tomatoes, so now they just need time to ripen. lots of hope though i have 12 plants out there and one of them has 22 new tomatoes on it!!

  19. Amends not accepted, that IS a tough one.

    Especially when I have been the party to drive a wedge between a person whose comradeship I enjoyed, and whose counsel I gave attention. And whose sobriety I admired, and who I genuinely liked.

    With a cutoff of communication in any direction, the only possible amend left is that I amend my behavior, and continue to work my program as best i know how.

    I have found that God will take care of anything which needs His Divine attention. So long as I stay ready to make a personal amend
    there is nothing more to be done!

    Peace, Syd, I think I have found peace also. Ay least when I close the portals of my "think" machine!

  20. As a person on the other side of the ammends - the person who does not wish to accept the ammends - what you are forgetting with the "I've done my part by offering ammends" thoery is the unbelievable torture you may have put that person through. The peple you have hurt may have lifelong scars because of you, and accepting your ammends makes the pain you caused even more real for them. Also, please consider that maybe losing people you hurt and not being able to make ammends may be just the motivation for change you need.

    In my case, I was a faithful, super naive and innocent girlfriend who had no idea my boyfriend was even using drugs. He was my first boyfriend, and having grown up with a father who raped me and beat me, I went incredibly scared of dating, inexperienced, and moved slow into the relationship. I was timid and thorough and incredibly patient with him, but in return he was pathological, selfish, controlling, manipulative, emotionally abusive, he put my health at risk by cheating on me while claming he was faithful the entire time and made me feel "crazy" for having trust issues. SInce I had no idea he was on drugs at the time, it was mental torture because I had no idea where the "split personailty" behaviors were coming from. I just kept trying to love him more, be sweeter, and have more faith in him. In the end, he put me through the worst emotional and mental hell i've ever experienced. That's saying alot considering my childhood.

    I found out he had done the same thing to a previous girlfriend, went through AA and NA and "made heart-pouring-out ammends" to her a year before he met me. So when I started thinking about his ammends, I wondered "how well did the ammends work"? Obviously with him not at all considering that he repeated his same pattern with me. I feel that because she forgave him and relieved him of his guilt, instead of having to process the pain of having drastic consequences for his actions, and change his character, he learned "I can destroy lives as long as I say sorry later, and people will still love me". So he cleared his guilt enough to forget the pain he caused the first time, and felt careless enough to do it all again.

    My reason for not accepting ammends has nothing to do with me not being a kind or forgiving person. I don't consider myself "beter" than people, but I do value that I am honest, faithful, sweet, generous, and consider how I treat others to be the lifeblood of my being. The reason I don't feel the need to accept his ammends or even listen to them is because since I left his life, his life has changed legitimately this time. I have heard through the grapevine that me never responding to him after our break up tortured him. I think his "torture" was more about his ego and his loss of control over me than him actually missing me - but whatever he felt is what motivated him to get clean, and that he's truly changed this time. I feel like me leaving his life for good has showed him that you can't keep "messing up and saying sorry". Eventually you will cause enough pain that people will just not want to know you - and that is a pain he felt strong enough to want to choose to live a better way of life for himself. So even though me not accepting his ammends sounds cruel - it's a round about way of giving love :\ I pray to God he stays clean, and I feel like me leaving him behind has motivated him to learn to love himself instead of seeking my acceptance and putting the "love" responsibility back on me.

    So please consider that someone not accpeting your ammends may actually be the best gift of love they can give you.

  21. I have no idea how I would respond if my daughter came to me . I find it interesting that you talk about making amends so you can heal ...what about helping someone else heal from the pain you have caused ? My pain is from dishonesty and lies...from her blaming my parenting style....from her never calling me for months on end. I stopped calling her because I could read thru the lies when she would tell me how everything was fine....after becoming sober she had a conversation with my youngest son about how she thinks I am a harsh /mean parent. I was a struggling parent who's husband was a workaholic and I had to do everything alone with 4 children. I was under lots of pressure because if things weren't going well at home it was my fault. Besides the fact that she is 34 ,single and has never been a parent and wants to judge me ? I love all my children and I made my share of mistakes but I would love to hear the things I did right ....and not just the things I did wrong ! I would feel different about this whole process except that the intention is to make you the alcoholic feel better not the person you are making amends to .....Very self focused and self serving intentions . Again the alcoholics personality....


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