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STEP FIVE: MAKING AMENDS
in his best interests to have to earn it because of other demands on his time, such as high school. Perhaps they’ll ask him to pay a portion of the costs. But what portion? And over what period of time? Or perhaps they’ll decide that it was an accident and that an apology and a promise to be more careful next time (changed behavior) is sufficient. In that case, there would be no reparation component to his amend.
Those reparations that involve physical damage, stolen funds, or anything else in which most of the harm can be quantified would seem to be relatively straightforward. But even they grow complicated in real life. Tony, for example, embezzled from his company but was never caught. Eaten away by guilt, he came to regret his theft and wanted to make amends in order to be free of that guilt. What should his reparations be and how should he make them? Tony and his confidant decided that the most effective reparation for all concerned would be for him to repay the money he stole, plus interest. But how should he make that repayment? Should he reveal his embezzlement and face a possible jail sentence as part of his reparations? Or should he repay the money anonymously? If he doesn’t have all the money, should he pay it in installments? Should he take a second job to pay it back more quickly? If his company has gone out of business, to whom should he pay the money he stole? The answers to these questions depend upon Tony and the nature of the unique circumstances surrounding his regret.
What about reparations for people who are deceased or unreachable? They can still be made. Ramon had failed to repay a five-thousand-dollar loan from a good friend with whom a dispute erupted that grew and grew until it destroyed their friendship. When the man died, Ramon began to deeply regret the dispute and the end of the friendship that had once meant so much to him. He also regretted not repaying the debt. In this case, he was able to repay it to his friend’s widow. But what if his friend had no widow or the widow could not be located? In that case, Ramon could have made reparations by donating five thousand dollars (plus interest) to the heirs of the estate or to a worthy charity.
When a reparation involves human relationships, it grows even more complicated—and even more interesting. The choice of reparations is a complex decision that requires a great deal of thought, contemplation, and
prayer. It is easy to make a mistake by acting prematurely or without having thought through the reparation and its possible consequences. For that reason, turn to your confidant for help before you take any action. Your confidant should play a critical role in helping you choose the reparations you intend to make. He or she will ensure the most productive reparation possible while protecting the interests of every party to the regret, including yours. A confidant is your defense against ill-advised acts that might injure you, other people associated with the regret, or innocent third parties.
A confidant is there to guide you as well as protect you. A confidant’s perspective is likely to be more objective and disciplined than yours and perhaps more creative in resolving the potentially complicated issues associated with making reparations. A confidant will prevent you from being too easy on yourself and, conversely, from being too hard in the reparations you choose. As your supportive partner, he or she will establish guidelines to keep you safe and deadlines to keep you moving.
In designing your amend (apology, reparations, and changed behavior), keep in mind that there are two major criteria that should be met: effectiveness and no further harm.
The first criterion to apply in selecting an amend, including its reparations, is effectiveness. An amend should right the wrong you committed as completely as possible, generally without regard to its consequences for you. If you want freedom from your regrets, you cannot buy it with halfmeasures. Your apology, reparations, and changed behavior must be the best you can manage given present circumstances. Only if you are thorough in designing and making your amends will they prove entirely satisfactory to you. In that case, they will cleanse you of the guilt you feel and restore you to a sense of worth and wellness. The reparation component does not have to be complete in the sense of restoring everything to its preregret state, which isn’t possible, but it should be complete enough to restore you to freedom.
With some regrets, there may be no reparations to make. In relation-
STEP FIVE: MAKING AMENDS
ships, especially, there may be no way to repair what has happened other than with an apology and a change in your behavior. If so, then Step Five has only the apology and behavioral change components to it, but you must have given serious consideration to reparations and whether they were possible or appropriate.
No Further Harm