Why making amends and forgiving is so important

Why making amends and forgiving is so important

While both making amends and forgiving are likely to benefit other people, there’s one person they are certain to benefit. That person is you.

This is why both are such an important factor for many people in recovery.

Then, going centuries back, they have always had a significant role in those seeking spiritual growth. That is whether through religion or another way.

A great number of people do find it difficult to make amends as well as ask for and find forgiveness. It can be demanding to realize why there is the need to do it.

As well, there are many people who have had things said or done to them that they think are unforgivable. Sometimes that seems totally understandable.

For the majority of people making amends and forgiveness are not overnight things. It can take months and even years to make amends or forgive and ask for forgiveness where it’s needed.

For some people the best they can do in the beginning is say that possibly they will consider it.

But to move forward in life – and certainly in recovery – making amends, and both asking for and giving forgiveness can have substantial benefits. Here we outline why that’s the case.

Making amends

Making amends is defined as: “to compensate or make up for a wrongdoing.”

In fact, the word “mend” is merely a shortened version of amend. It means: “to repair something that is broken or damaged; return to health; to heal.”

This is precisely what we are setting out to do when making amends. We are looking to fix something that’s damaged, such as a relationship or friendship or a family. 

We are seeking a return to emotional and mental health. We want to heal traumas.

Left as they are, these things can sit extremely uncomfortably inside us. It is one of the factors that drives people to become addicted to alcohol or drugs or get taken by a behavioral addiction – as they desperately seek to change the painful feelings.

Becoming willing

In the Twelve Steps recovery program, it is Step Eight and Step Nine that deal with making amends and forgiveness too.

Step Eight states: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

So the first thing is to understand how harm is defined. This word derives from old Norse harmr meaning “grief, sorrow”. 

In the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions book on Step Eight it has this explanation: “To define the word ‘harm’ in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people.

“If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others. If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional security and peace of mind. We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful.”

It’s also worth noting how in Step Eight it says the word “all” twice. This is how vital to recovery making amends can be, certainly when dealing with an addiction.

We need to be thorough and honest with ourselves and to others.

Then Step Nine states: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

So it is encouraged to make the amends directly wherever possible. That usually means face to face.

There are a few theories as to why this is the case. A major one is that it’s more effective, just as doing business with someone in person is rather than on the phone.

Humble acceptance

In the Twelve Steps groups, those who make their amends are usually advised to humbly accept the reaction of whoever they are making it to – without saying another word.

It is not and never is simply to go over anything again. It is not to expect an apology or a specific reaction from the other person.

It is for the person who’s making the amends to clean up their side of the street. It is to cause healing.

That is ideally with the person they are facing, but certainly to their internal wound. It is to seek closure on something too.

Frequently it will bring a wonderful sense of inner peace on a certain matter or even overall relationship with a particular person. It very often brings the two people closer together.

It can also be called an atonement. This is a word that derives from a Latin word adunamentum meaning “unity”.


A great number of those who make their amends in this way realize as they do so that other people are generally very forgiving of them and their behavior. It is a significant lesson.

They say that in the majority of cases they felt forgiven by the other person. This gave them the sense that they could, in turn, truly forgive others too.

The word “forgive” itself says it all. When we forgive we are giving – to another person as well as to ourselves.

Not forgiving often means we are destroying ourselves from the inside. As it’s been put in recovery circles: not forgiving someone is like drinking poison, then waiting for the other person to die from it…

It is also vital to forgive ourselves in life. In recovery, people come to realize that they were usually not a bad person, rather someone who was suffering and unwell.

You may look back on the past with regret and remorse for things you did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say. But remember that although you may realize now that you could have done better, at the time you did the best you could with what you knew then.

All of this gives great humility, one of the qualities needed for a strong and enduring recovery. It boosts our emotional strength.

Our team has decades of experience helping people with emotional issues and all types of mental health problems. Our luxury mansion by an idyllic tranquil lake is created for our guests to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

We’re in the perfect natural setting for emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. Here in Florida we are also fortunate enough to have warm sunshine all year round.

Call us today to speak with one of our team about what we can do to help you or someone you love.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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