What do we really mean when we speak of 'making amends'? Usually it's a matter of doing something that outwardly 'makes up for' something we did that we regret, or which caused harm or offence. It's an action - usually words alone are not enough to make amends, or we'd call it an apology. Newspapers make amends by publishing apologies and retractions, for example - they have to make the words be a real and tangible thing.
And yet, such an effort is always doomed to futility. What we did is something that we always will have done. Further, the concept of making amends implies that we infringed on someone's rights, we somehow invaded their reality and imposed something deleterious from our own upon it, and in a grand irony we want to salve that invasion by invading it again, but with better intentions. The affront; that is, the designed imposition of our will onto the offended party's world, is the same in that it disempowers equally. The flavour of the intention matters not.
Of course, there are plenty who would disagree and we live in a legal system where the demanding of amends from another is key in the delivery of what we describe - almost desperately, hopefully - to ourselves as justice.
But I can no more heal the wound I made on another than they can heal my wounds. What happened will always have happened, and extractions of amends, compensation (whether in the form of gestures or material things like money), retribution (the infliction of a punishment to reflect the suffering felt by the offended one) or whatever you can think of to 'balance' the scales of justice does not and can not undo hurts felt or damages done. Ask any plaintiff in any court, and really listen to their responses. They may be vindicated, they may be elated, enriched, feel a sense of reclaimed power, but.....have they been healed?
I'm going to suggest that when we look at healing of things that have happened to us, those things it seems others have done to us intentionally or otherwise, that the notion of amends is essentially anathema. There is no help or growth to be found there.
I'm thinking all this now I suppose because I've spent a bit of time present wandering backwards over my own past, and looking at the ways I hurt others - intentionally and otherwise. As happens when one focuses on a thing, something interesting popped up. A contact from the past whom I'd not heard from in over a decade, and who had been hurt very badly by actions I took.
Of course, I am sorry that things went that way, and in this case I did not intend any harm, but I'd set up a situation where hurt was always going to happen through my simply not being honest with my own self; in my feelings and behaviours I was not being genuine. I've noticed in life that this always leads to me getting hurt, and usually others do too. This person had some kind things to say about my current situation, and that they had only a little bitterness left from that time, so that their memories of me were mainly of the warm and happy variety. Naturally, I was saddened that they were still in some pain, but really......what can I now do? The best I can do is acknowledge that this thing in my life still has a residue of stuff to clean up, else it would not have popped up its head this way again. In other words, all I can do is take responsibility for my experience, and that *does* include my experience of this person still being hurt.
It would just be callous to shrug and say "not my problem any more, I have forgiven myself and so really it's up to them how to feel" or some such other fashionable statement because that would be to ignore another person's genuinely felt pain. And I don't feel that that's right. They deserve compassion just as much as I or anyone else, without the judgement.
What can I do? There is one thing. By taking responsibility for my experience of the moment in which I read those words speaking of their hurt, and remembering my past actions, and choosing in that very moment to feel, to heal, and to release in myself the pain brought anew by going there again, I allow whatever healing I can to occur. That is all. I cannot heal another by my force of will, or my desire that it be so. Nor do I believe in any sort of interventional prayerful thing, where I'd ask Divinity to heal this pain in another. That would be me judging again, wouldn't it? Who am I to say their pain is not something that they need anyway?
But I can always ask Divinity to do whatever is best for me, and everyone concerned, and let go of any idea I might have that I could ever know what's right and good and goes with the Plan of the day. So I do, all the time.
I do it with my past, when I remember, because I now know I cannot make any more amends than I have already tried to make - instead, I can make amendments.
An amendment is where you look at something rooted in the past, realise it no longer helps you on your journey, and change it. An example would be the US Constitutional Amendments (which then become the effective current Constitution); another example would be changing the way I feel when I look back at the time where this person was hurt so badly. Because this then becomes what I offer back in the Now, to the universe, as what is important about the issue - it cleans the slate. What happened will always have happened, but when I realised I still felt sorry, and thus had work to do, I did it in that moment and found what I needed to find. Freedom at last from carrying that niggling blemish that was always there whenever that person passed through my mind, or when a similar situation in the world reminded me.
I can't control how that might affect their reality. But I do think that setting free the pain, offering it back up, making the amendment in my past, can't do harm. And may, just may, have good consequences for others too, down the track a ways.
Not that I'd know.
So I guess I'm preaching here, aren't I? Whatever you do, don't take my word for anything. Please check with yourself whether this is real. I'm just saying that my lesson is "maketh not ye amends, for lo, they are utterly bullshit for achieving the only Real thing which is healing. Instead, yea, maketh thee amendments to how thou feelest in thineheart when thou rememberest hurts and injuries thou hast given, and received. Seeketh not ye Justice After The Fact, for this is but an illusion. Seeketh always Justice In Action, and then ye stands half a chance of doing it right" :-)