Making amends is one of the touchiest topics in the domain of recovery. Within the architecture of the 12 Steps, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob suggested a framework for cleaning up the past and repairing broken relationships. I won't spend much time trying to validate or invalidate their strategy, but I will elaborate on how I run my own salvage operation. It's a little different. Let me explain.
First, I'm all in favor of paying back debts, and I've done some of that—financially, emotionally, and karmically. A clean conscience demands restoring what has been damaged, returning what has been borrowed or stolen, and nurturing what has been neglected. Something deep inside always wants to regain balance if we are off kilter.
Even so, the past is incredibly long, and karma is unfathomable. If we take into account the possibility of past lives, it is not realistic to recall every single mishap along the way. What is realistic, however, is to adopt a way of moving forward, and that first involves making amends with ourselves.
In The Secrets of Wilder, the young spiritual aspirant asks: "Why not me?" What he means is: Why not me for a life of enlightenment, ecstatic bliss, and an outpouring of divine love? It's a great question.
We have to be willing to say yes to being worthy of the transformation, if we want to make amends and move forward in a lasting way. When a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, there is no turning back. There is only fluttering and dancing about with new freedom and versatility. Does the cocoon have to be killed or surgically removed? No. It just gets shed naturally and easily as we spread our wings.
If we focus too much on the past, we will get stuck spinning our wheels with little progress being made. If we cultivate and feed a vision for our chosen ideal, we will make good use of the past, much like a plant makes use of recycled manure. Nothing is wasted, only processed and re-integrated. With enough alchemy and daily practice, even shit can be turned to gold.
So, in my opinion, the best way to make amends is to work on enriching and developing our latent talents, rather than obsessing over supposed defects of character. If, like a bull in a china shop, I've wrecked some things in the past, I don't need to curse my horns, or even have them removed. The horns may turn out to be great assets over the long-term. Maybe the horns will be the sharp instruments needed to polish the china. I can learn to use my horns with more finesse, refinement, and self-control.
There is great freedom and reconciliation in not only moving beyond harmful patterns, but also instilling new ones of joy, compassion and creativity. Then, the people who once feared us because of our carelessness, will in due time welcome us, because we will be overflowing with divine love and stillness in action.
Make amends by moving forward!