Refer to Step 5: I recognize that the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came. Therefore, I commit to repairing my relationship with God and making amends with everyone I have wronged along the way.
After making an apology for poor behavior, there is an overwhelming sense of relief, which leaves you feeling calm—lighter than air. You say to yourself, “That wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be.” If that was all there was to it, you would be correct, but there’s another part that is more difficult—much more difficult. It’s making amends for what you’ve done wrong.
For example, if someone treated you unkindly, and you’ve maligned that person’s character in response, essentially bearing false witness, an appropriate amend would be to go back to those you have deceived to set the record straight. This is necessary in spite of what has been done to you. That’s because you’re the one trying to recover, which makes you responsible for your behavior and not that of the other person.
Resolving a situation like this is never an easy task. Receiving forgiveness from someone by making an apology is comparatively easy to making amends that fit the situation. Additionally, making amends runs counter to our prevailing American culture. We want to ask forgiveness while skipping restitution. By believing an apology is all that’s required, you might think you’re avoiding the hardest part, but you’re also relinquishing your right to a profound blessing.
This is where substantive change in your character can occur. For that to happen, however, you have to travel the full distance and make amends for your behavior. In essence, you’re saying, “I used to be this way, but no longer. As part of my apology to you, I make a commitment to never behave like this again. To prove my sincerity, I’m also going back to the people I’ve deceived about you, and I’m going to tell them the truth. I’m sorry. It will never happen again.” Then do it.
Making amends like this is difficult, but it’s what changes you, producing real and substantive character transformation. By doing this, you refuse to circumvent the truth. You refuse to deflect. You refuse to practice denial.
When you face the truth courageously, remember that God has your back every step of the way. Responding like this will change you from the inside out. It’s where recovery principles weave themselves into the fabric of your being, and you start to grow into the person you’re meant to be.
There was a path that seemed so promising—
A road that looked like it was Your way,
But it was not. There were far
Too much compromise involved
To be something that You would honor
And, in the deepest recesses of my heart,
I knew it—in spite of all my protestations.
Nevertheless, I followed the wrong path,
And paid a terrible price for doing so.
Later, with no other recourse available,
I came to You once again—sorrowful,
Humbled, and crushed—with hat in hand—
Ready and willing to accept necessary change.
This time, instead of medicating my pain with vice,
I endured the obligatory heartache for a period
That I thought was far too long, but You knew
Was exactly what was required.
You promised that if I would humble myself
You would exalt me at the proper time.
I didn’t believe this was true—not literally
Nor that You would do it—not really.
But You have, and I can clearly see
Your hand in the restoration of my life.
Now, I stand strong, far wiser, and more resilient,
With a countenance that is calm and sane.
Humbling myself because I had no alternative,
I never considered that in Your wisdom,
You had orchestrated my circumstances
In a way that I could do nothing else.
This wasn’t the road I would have chosen for myself,
But it’s the road You have chosen for me.
I wish I could say that I have learned all my lessons,
But I know who I am. I know that in my own heart—
I am prone to wander—prone to leave the God I love.
Father, take my heart and prevent it from
Following another fruitless path leading nowhere.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)