Repairing damage in relationships and the difference between sorry and amends
You have all heard the sayings that go something like this…
“When trust is broken, sorry means nothing.”
The list goes on, but the basic theme is that sorry means nothing without repair.
People tell you to stuff your sorries in a sack because they don’t fix anything. And they don’t want you to be sorry, they want you to fix it. Sometimes reasonably, sometimes not.
We all get sick and tired of sorries when they are oversupplied and not followed by action. This is why many people equally love sayings like,
“Actions speak louder than words.”
“Love is not what you say. Love is what you do.”
These sentiments make sense and people’s love for them is no surprise. Actions do speak louder than words. But words still matter.
We focus on the actions because they are typically lacking. But that doesn’t mean our words don’t matter too.
People want action because they want repair. Repair in relationships in which one or multiple parties feel they have been violated is imperative. The relationship cannot thrive without it. But people also need acknowledgment that the harm was done, that it was unjustified, and that the offending party will not repeat the same behavior.
Let’s make up an example.
Say you’re working a job where you get paid by the hour. You are living paycheck to paycheck. One paycheck, you get shorted twenty hours, and your check is half what it should be. Your boss puts in a request to have it corrected, but it takes five days to process. In the meantime, you accrue late fees on bills and suffer overdraft charges on your bank account.
Unless it becomes a pattern, you would surely make the positive assumption that it was an oversight or glitch. Right?
You may not fault your boss for the mistake. But paying you the money owed doesn’t fully repair the situation — for it has done damage. You must know that they have recognized the cause of their error and will make every effort not to let it happen again. Without knowing this, you run the risk of this repeating, which you cannot afford. You will already have to work overtime to make up for the additional expenses.
Your boss knows your paycheck is paramount, and he respects your right to be compensated for your work. So he tells you that. He lets you know that there was a mistake on their part, it is not an acceptable mistake, and it will not happen again. Then, you can move forward because the distrust in the relationship has been repaired. As long as it does not become a pattern, you can move on with a sense of security in the relationship.
If your boss did not acknowledge the mistake and repair it verbally as well as technically, though, you would not feel secure. If he brushed it off as a blip and merely put in the request for your late pay without amends, you wouldn’t be confident that he won’t let it happen again. You would not be secure in this relationship. The same applies to all damage in all relationships.
Yes, repair is about action. But words matter too. Words and other forms of communication are the only way you can gain reason to believe you are safe from further harm.
When we move forward in damaged relationships despite a lack of repair, they become toxic. Toxic relationships are not the result of one or more people being inherently bad or toxic, they are born from a lack of repair in a relationship that leads to toxic patterns.
Making amends to repair damage in relationships
Without repair through amends, damage done to a relationship lingers and wreaks havoc on its security. Most people want security in the relationships they stay in — they want some level of trust.
No one wants to exist in an environment or around people that they do not trust. Everyone wants to feel safe from harm.
Saying sorry is one thing and making amends is something entirely different. Sorry offers no security. It doesn’t even offer hope.
Making amends is saying something along these lines and following it with action:
“I did this. You didn’t deserve it. I don’t want to hurt you in this way, I will repair it and I will do everything in my power not to do it again.”
The damage needs repair, but it also needs acknowledgment.
In situations where you can find your part — which is almost all, if you are honest — it helps to acknowledge why it happened. What was your mistake? And how do you intend to fix it?
Perhaps, upon honest analysis, you find that you have simply been selfish or you were afraid — making decisions based on fear. Maybe you were neither selfish nor afraid, and you were merely unaware. Whatever the case, honestly acknowledging your part is the best thing you can do to repair the relationship — no matter how ugly.
If you were being selfish, just say it.
“I did this. It was selfish of me, and you didn’t deserve it. I can see that, I want to fix it, and I won’t do it again.”
If you were afraid, just say it.
“I was afraid, and I made this decision based on fear. It hurt you and it was wrong. I acknowledge that and I commit to doing my best not to hurt you in this way again.”
If you were unaware, distracted or misinformed, just say it. Those who are unaware often come off as dismissive, which does not repair but does further damage. So be mindful of that. But you don’t have to use your ignorance or unintentional thoughtlessness to evade responsibility, be dismissive or apathetic.
“I hurt you. I see that. I was not aware of what I was doing and saying that harmed you, but I can see that I could have been more thoughtful and caring — more present or more mindful, maybe. I am aware now, and I will be more mindful in the future.”
The wording is optional, but amends is vital. And its primary focus is your side of the street, not that of the other person.
Amends is not,
“I’m sorry, but…”
“I’m fixing it, but it’s your fault.”
“I’m sorry, but it wasn’t my fault.”
Amends does not care who was right or wrong. You don’t have to agree with the other person or even understand their perspective fully in order to repair the damage. Amends simply asks you to acknowledge any harm you have done and demonstrate an honest effort not to do it again.
When you do not repair damage along the way in your relationships, that damage becomes toxic and either leads to the relationship’s end or a toxic relationship.
We are all human, and we all do all of these things. We can all be selfish, and we all have our fears. Every single one of us is ignorant about something, and we all have days where we are not our best. Everyone causes damage.
Repairing damage in our relationships doesn’t ask us to become a saint who never makes mistakes but to acknowledge when the uglier parts of our humanness rear their heads and harm the people around us.
Building beautiful and lasting relationships is not about avoiding the undesirable conditions of our humanity. Beautiful relationships are about shared humanness. For it is only in acceptance of our own humanness that we can make amends and repair the damage we inevitably cause along the way. And it is only through acceptance of the other’s humanness that we can forgive.
Written by Holly Kellums
Originally published on Medium.com
Featured image by Hier und jetzt endet leider meine Reise auf Pixabay aber from Pixabay