How to Make Amends After You Have Seriously Hurt Someone

You can't undo the action, but maybe you can ease the consequences.
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A simply apology is woefully inadequate for serious harm, such as causing social ostracism through betrayal, costing someone their job because of your lie or tearing apart a family by having an affair. Attempting to undo the damage done as much as possible requires making either direct, indirect or life-altering amends. Choose the best option in relation to the damage you caused.

1 Acknowledge the Hurt

The first step to making amends is to acknowledge what you did, explains Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg in her article “A Blogger's Deceit, Power and Making Amends.” When confessing your misdeed, specify how you hurt the person so he understands that you understand the results of your actions. If you betrayed a friend, admit that he was embarrassed, hurt and angered. Affirm that you should not have betrayed him and that you are truly sorry for the hurt your actions caused.

2 Making Direct Amends

Making direct amends requires that you make a full or partial restitution when you cause someone harm. That could include paying back what you stole or giving someone cash when your actions have cost them financially. Take responsibility for what you did if it was attributed to someone else, such as causing someone to lose a job or get a failing grade on a project. Replace or repair any kind of property you damaged.

3 Indirect Paybacks

Indirect amends are those you choose when you cannot directly undo the damage you have done, such as causing a car accident resulting the amputation of someone's limb. Instead, you might make a donation to the wronged person's favorite charity in their honor or become an organ donor. Other options could include making an anonymous donation to the individual or assisting a family member who was impacted by your actions.

4 Making Long-Term Changes

Sometimes it isn't possible to make either direct or indirect amends, but you can move forward by changing your habits to avoid repeating mistakes. You might become a counselor to help troubled kids in the same way someone perhaps reached out to help you. Paying it forward is a way of making life amends, actively looking for opportunities to help others.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.