Living Amends vs. Direct Amends
If you are new to recovery you might start thinking about the amends process. Many people start to get a little nervous when they think about making amends to people. It can be helpful to know what to expect so that you don’t worry too much about the 9th step. Every sponsor helps people with this step differently but the big book does offer some guidelines on how to make amends.
The Difference Between Direct and Living Amends
Direct amends are when you confront someone about the harm that you caused them by meeting with them in person, talking to them on the phone, or writing them a little. In the case of living amends you do not necessarily contact the person you are making amends to. Instead, you amend your behavior by changing it. You show the other person that you have changed by showing them with your new behavior. In some cases after you have make direct amends to someone you might follow up by making a living amends.
How to Make Direct Amends
Direct amends will differ depending on who you work with. But typically, you will start by using your list of everyone you have harmed. You will work with your sponsor in order to decide which of these people you need to make direct amends to. Then you will try to contact each one of these people. When you do contact someone the first thing you ask them is if they are willing to hear your amends. If they say they are you then proceed. However, if they tell you they are not willing to hear the amends at this time you can tell them that you understand and ask them to contact you if they are willing to hear it in the future.
Once someone says they are willing to hear your amends you can proceed. Here a script you might want to follow:
- Start by telling them the ways that you know you hurt them.
- Tell the person the specific behavior you are amending.
- Continue by saying how you have amended the behavior.
- Ask the other person if there is anything you have left out.
- Ask if there is anything that they would like to say to you.
- Ask if the other person is willing to forgive you.
- Finish by thanking the person for hearing your amends.
How to Make Living Amends
Every time you make a direct amends you also want to make a living amends. Additionally, when you do not make direct amends to someone you can make living amends instead. What you want to do is pick out the specific behaviors you did that caused harm to someone. You amends this behavior by changing it. This might mean that you actively treat someone differently than you did before.
For example, say that one of the behaviors you did that caused harm was that you were rude and hurtful to your parents. You might amend this behavior by speaking to them differently than you did before so that you are treating them with kindness. You might also decide to specifically call them twice a week as a way of cultivating that kindness and treating them differently.