When I found out Tiger Woods would offer a public apology last Friday, I wanted to hear it. I don't really care about his personal life, nor is it my responsibility to judge his sincerity. I was, however, interested because of my own experiences with amends.
My most intense and comprehensive amends process happened when I went to an inpatient eating disorder facility. The program included a component that was loosely based on the 12-step principles. One of the eight weeks of treatment was called Family Week and focused around a Christian amends-making concept known as Truth in Love. I spent a considerable amount of time in the month and a half before Family Week preparing my amends. There was a lot I needed to share with my family.
Not surprisingly, though, my disordered eating behavior wasn't the only area in my life that was out of whack. Something else - developed and fueled by my eating disorder - was having quite a negative impact in my life. I had decided before I went to treatment that I was not going to deal with it. Uh uh. No way. The more I worked on my amends, though, the more I saw that if I wanted to be, and stay, free from my eating disorder, it was imperative that I deal with this other issue.
To sum up, Family Week finally came, I made amends on a number of issues, as did my family, and it presented the opportunity for a clean slate.
Since then, I've made amends to plenty of people for numerous things. I know I'll have to make more amends in the future because I'm human and continue to make mistakes. I can, however, use the lessons I've learned, some of which Tiger Woods reiterated, for the future. Here are some of them, which you might find useful in your own life.
I'm responsible for amends, not forgiveness.
This is something I've eagerly embraced, perhaps because it brings a lot of freedom with it. If I owe someone amends, it is my responsibility to give it. It isn't my job to make that person forgive me. Whether someone accepts my apology is a choice they have to make. All I can do is take care of my part.
Amends aren't necessarily interdependent.
If I feel someone has wronged me, it isn't my responsibility to try to make them reciprocate. Just as I can't make someone forgive me, I can't force them to apologize. If I am bothered by something they've done, I can tell them truthfully, but not with the expectation that they will apologize. That's their choice.
It's not enough to give it; I have to live it.
Tiger mentioned that his wife, Elin Nordegren, told him that his real apology to her wouldn't come in the form of words, but from his behavior over time. Amends are often an active, continual thing. In fact, sometimes amends aren't even spoken. In our current Facebook era, it's easier to find people from the past and make amends to them, but sometimes that's not possible. It is feasible, however, to incorporate amends in future behavior.
It might require daily amends.
Many amends consist of actions and some of those entail daily work. One thing Tiger said was, "It's now up to me to make amends and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made." There are plenty of people for whom that might be the best approach. I want my living amends to produce a permanent change in behavior, yet I find a lifetime mandate is a little too much. Right now, I choose to live my amends one day at a time.
Amends are sincere.
I believe in not compulsively making amends. Each circumstance is different, but generally, I refrain from giving amends unless I feel the need to do so. This is controversial, but it usually works for me.
I might, for instance, realize that someone is bothered by something I've done, but I don't consider that to be a valid reason to apologize. A person could call me out on something I initially don't agree with, but after considering it, I'll realize that I do need to make amends and I'll do so. Sometimes I don't feel the need and I won't do it. I try to make amends only when it is genuine.
I might not want to do it, but I still need to.
Sometimes I want to give amends. Often, though, I don't. After all, making amends can be painful, humbling, and scary. However, if I feel the need to apologize, it's necessary that I do so, want to or not. The need to act with integrity and clean up the lingering mess provides motivation to do it.
Likewise, it can be necessary to give amends even if the other party doesn't feel wronged. For example, I recently apologized to a friend, only to have her give me a puzzled look and say, "There's no reason for you to apologize." I told her that while she didn't feel I'd screwed up, I minded my behavior and despite her objections, I owed her an apology.
Sometimes I need to make amends to myself.
While it can be necessary to make amends to others, it's important not to forget ourselves. I've had to apologize to myself countless times. Just as I'm sure I'll have to "get right" with others in the future, I'll need to do so with myself as well.
Some self-amends I've made were for how I treated my body and when I haven't treated myself with adequate respect. They're not just apologies but also subsequent action.
Amends can help with the present and future.
Making amends can be difficult, and recognizing that can assist me with my present actions. I've had many occasions where I've thought, If I do this, I'll need to make amends in the future and since I really don't want to, I'm not going to do this thing now.
Hearing Tiger Woods' apology helped remind me of the importance of amends, from having the willingness to give them to the dedication to live them.