I have mentioned before that I am recovering from various forms of disordered eating. Like most other addiction disorders I’ll never really be cured but choose recovery daily, sometimes several times a day. An integral part of that recovery centers around the idea of forgiveness. Forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, and making amends to those who might forgive us.
Making amends is about so much more than being sorry. It is about attempting to make it right, which can take many forms. But there’s another aspect- accepting that you may not be able to make it right. Accepting that you may not be forgiven. Accepting that forgiveness may look different than you’d imagined.
One of the most important things that I learned through my recovery process is that being sorry should not be about forgiveness or defining the form forgiveness should take (IE: forgiveness may not include the other person letting you remain in their life). In other words, it shouldn’t be about making yourself feel better.
Truly being sorry is about letting the other person know that your actions were about you, not them. When we are hurt we often hurt other people, usually indirectly and unintentionally but that doesn’t erase the consequences. Accepting responsibility for those consequences should be about helping the other person, not our own redemption.
I’ve come to understand that letting go and forgiving myself doesn’t mean that others will always forgive me. I’ve also learned that just because they forgive me doesn’t mean they will trust me. It is not for me to demand forgiveness or trust. It is not for me to hold it against someone when they can’t let go of hurts inflicted by me.
I’m not an axe murderer but I’m no saint either. Most of the hurts I’ve inflicted on others arose from my own lack of self esteem. I had my own reasons and I honestly believe that I was doing the best I could at the time. And yet I hurt people. I subconsciously pushed people away because I was afraid of being hurt and had a difficult time trusting that they truly cared. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had some very carefully constructed walls that I wasn’t really letting anyone behind.
I’ve torn down large portions of those walls and I can clearly see now what I was doing. With the wisdom of hindsight I realized that there were people I pushed away that I now need to make amends to. This is an ongoing process, one that includes the understanding that just because my walls have come down doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will want to see what’s behind them anymore.