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A specific amend to yourself may also be necessary, especially if you have directly hurt yourself in some way. Years of drug addiction, alcoholism, rage attacks, failed jobs, or squandered talents are examples of regrets that weigh heavily on people in terms of the high cost to themselves (as well as to many others, of course). In such cases, an amend to yourself is warranted as a means of getting over the guilt you feel about what you have done. As with all amends, there are three components to the self-amend: an apology, reparations, and changed behavior.
A self-apology is straightforward. You apologize to yourself as you would to anyone else you had harmed, including in your apology all the necessary elements. You may wish to make that apology in a quiet place that has meaning for you, allowing enough time to contemplate the significance of what you are doing and to feel the emotional impact of your words. Once the apology has been made, you can choose to accept it or not. However, part of the amend you make to yourself is accepting your own apology. If you cannot accept your apology, which really means that you canít forgive yourself, donít be concerned. You will forgive yourself in Step Nine, and your apology will be accepted then.
Reparations made to yourself have the same purpose as those made to others: repair the damage of the past to the best of your ability, given your present circumstances. In most cases, that will mean taking some kind of action. For example, if your regret is not having completed college and
STEP FIVE: MAKING AMENDS
being stuck in a low-paying job, the reparation you make is to go back to college and complete your education. If your regret is that you have been focused on career, money, and material things at the expense of any selfless form of service to others, your reparation may be to take on a project in which you can serve others (such as working in a soup kitchen, teaching a child to read, or anything else where your particular talents can be brought to bear).
3. Change the Harmful Behavior
The third component of an amend is new behavior. Once you have apologized and made reparations for your regrets, it is your responsibility to change the behavior that caused your regret in the first place. Reparations are not enough if you continue the same behavior that created the regret. Part of your amend to the injured party and to yourself is to alter your future behavior. Apologies are empty words and reparations are hollow actions unless you do.
In Collinís case, for example, which was discussed earlier, the nature of his apology and the reparations he should make for his adultery were not immediately clear. But his amended behavior was: no more extramarital affairs. Thereafter, Collin will have to remain faithful to his wife or else seek a divorce if the marriage isnít working. Other forms of amended behavior may also be appropriate for Collin, such as working harder at his marriage or being more attentive to his wife. In Tonyís embezzlement case, his amended behavior is also clear: no more stealing.
Some behavior is not easy to change, however, at least without external assistance. You may find that you are highly resistant to change for any number of reasons, some of which may be a mystery even to you. If you are incapable of changing the problem behavior on your own, seeking outside help will be part of your amend. Itís critical that you change the behavior that is creating regrets in your life. That change is part of the amend you make to those you have harmed, but it is also part of the amend you make to yourself. If you are given to rage attacks, take an anger management course or seek the help of a mental health professional. If you are an
alcoholic, enter treatment or join Alcoholics Anonymous. Do whatever you have to do to change the behavior patterns that created your regrets and that expose you to future regrets. Otherwise, the amends you have made to others and to yourself will be incomplete.
After working Step Five, you should feel some relief from the burden of guilt you have borne with your regrets. The humble act of admitting your mistakes and trying to correct them as best you can is a liberating experience. Having made your amendsóapologies, reparations, and changed behavioróyou are free from the tyranny of guilt. When you cut the cord of guilt, you break a major chain that binds you to your regrets.
Although you have completed the activities of Step Five, your work on the step is not finished and never will be, because the changed behavior component of your amend is intended for a lifetime. You must continue to work at sustaining your new behavior and at improving it through daily practice and, if necessary, additional outside help. For the purposes of the steps, however, you are ready to move on to the next one. Enjoy the rewards of having completed this difficult step. They are real and very much deserved. Congratulations!