On Day 5 of our “Days of Awe” Retreat, we made a list of the people we have hurt. We selected one person from that list and went through a little writing exercise about our hurting this person. Today we prepare ourselves to make amends to this person. Before actually and personally making amends, we have to lay the groundwork for an optimal conversation. One of the ways to do this is to write out how we imagine the conversation taking place, including what we will say. I offer that we write the words we will be sharing as a letter. Here are a few guidelines for this exercise:
- Only write using the pronoun “I.” This is about sharing what happened from our perspective, what we did, and taking responsibility for what we did. This is not the place to tell the other person what we think they did wrong, or how we believe they contributed to what happened, even though we, too, might have been hurt in the process. This is solely about us and about the part we played; about accepting responsibility for what we have done. Forgiving them for their part was in Day 6 of our retreat.
- A good start for our conversation, our letter, would certainly include the words: “I am aware that I have hurt you.” Now, without retelling in your own words the story of what happened–the other person doesn’t need to be reminded of the pain you already caused them and relive it, and certainly not your version of it–write about your own hurtful behavior (i.e. admit the exact nature of what you did) and how you are aware it affected them. Then, write what you believe triggered for you this behavior (i.e. I was judgmental, I was controlling, I was jealous, I was afraid…etc,) which expressed in such hurtful ways.
- Conclude with “I am sorry,” and pledge to do your best and work on yourself not to repeat what you did again. Do not ask for their forgiveness. Whether they forgive us or not is their prerogative and none of our business; we are not doing this to achieve any preferred outcome, or with any kind of expectations.
- Admitting the harm we caused, being truly sorry, and willing to go to any lengths to change our behavior is as admirable as it is painful. But our rabbis are clear; this is only one part of the process. The other part is that we are to be willing to do anything in our power to repair the damage we have done. This means that, together with our apologies, we are to humbly ask the person we have hurt what they think would be an appropriate & reasonable action for us to take that would repair the damage we caused; and if appropriate & reasonable, to pledge to do so.
Take your time to write this letter and really prepare yourself for this healing conversation. Tomorrow we will talk about the “how to’s,” address the fears and other emotions that arise when we contemplate having such a discussion, and make suggestions about how to overcome them.