8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Luke 9:8-10 NLT
Zacchaeus, a corrupt tax official, recognized the injury that he had caused by embezzling additional taxes from the occupants of the city of Jericho. Christ’s decision to dine with him and implied acceptance inspired him to make a generous amends.
Making amends and asking for forgiveness are two processes that inhabit the same neighborhood. They are actions that we initiate to take responsibility for ourselves and our mental wellbeing. I will start with the action of making amends.
Making amends is not an easy process. It requires a certain honesty and vulnerability that can only exist because of personal work in the areas of self-discovery and growth. Self-discovery is an intentional act that involves an understanding of the issues I deal with, experiencing a removal of guilt and embracing communal empathy, acceptance and understanding. Once I understand the nature of the patterns that cause me to hurt others, I can take responsibility for the pain I have caused by making amends in a way that is meaningful to others and healing to me. It can range from a simple “sorry” to a demonstration of changed behaviors that have been initiated by a desire to not hurt others intentionally again. Stepping into an amends risks rejection but my personal growth to this point allows me to understand that this step is essential for any further progression. It is about releasing the people whom I have harmed from the burden of their pain so that they can feel the freedom to seek their own healing.
Even as we extend our amends, we ourselves must forgive those who have hurt and betrayed us. This doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation (or the restoration of prior relationship commitments). It does mean releasing the control that the pain has on our emotional well-being. For many of us this forgiveness starts with places where we have felt let down by God. It extends to the self-forgiveness associated with the shame and guilt we feel about how we hurt our own integrity and character. It ends with the pain caused to us by others. For people who have experienced abuse at the hands of others, this is a particularly difficult action that requires the help and support of others.Making amends and offering forgiveness are both difficult but necessary for our freedom. If you had to make a list of people to whom both of these are owed, who would be on those lists? Might you have someone whom you trust and who loves you unconditionally, to share these lists with? As you enter a new year, prioritize your desire to invest in your well-being in this way. As always, we are here to help.