by Vinita Hampton Wright
Step 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
The Ignatian way of thinking and living encourages people to be practical while being spiritual. We recognize that God means for us to participate in what God is doing in the world—we can choose to take action that leads to faith, hope, and love in ourselves and others. Our gifts, talents, habits, and decisions can help heal the world.
At the same time, we recognize that it’s the love and power of God that accomplish transformation. We do our part, but God does the heavy lifting. In this life, some things will simply be impossible for me to do. But God takes care of what is impossible.
This is important to remember when it comes to making amends. We can do only so much—and must leave the rest to God. Also, what looks like perfect justice to us is not always the best thing to do. In God’s realm, justice is tempered by mercy. There are times when I might want to make amends in a way that seems right and just to me. But for the person I’m making amends to, my plan of action is simply not kind enough or merciful enough.
For instance, I want to recount details and sort out what happened so that I can be specific about making amends. But the person to whom I’m making amends is too fragile emotionally to relive the situation. Or I think it’s best to meet face-to-face because I should be willing to face the person I hurt. But, for any number of reasons, the person assures me that a phone conversation or letter is good enough—more contact than that is simply too painful.
Then there’s the situation in which the person I harmed has died, and I believe it would be just and right for me to make restitution to the remaining family members—but does the family even know what happened? Would the person who died have wanted the family to know about the situation in which I caused the harm?
And, in the case of someone who has died before I could make amends, my only option is to trust God’s love to reach beyond death. My intentions are good; maybe I even talk to this person who is no longer present. Then I leave the issue in God’s hands.
We make amends out of a sense of justice. But the true purpose lies beyond justice: making amends makes it possible for wounds to heal and for everyone involved to grow in spiritual strength and maturity.