We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Sultry! Bewitching! Definitive! Disciplined! These words describe the sweet, silky voice of jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, or, as she was known, “Sassy” and even “The Divine One.” With her impressive three-octave range, she has been regarded by many as not only one of the greatest jazz singers, but among the greatest singers of all time. The rendition that clearly raises goose bumps is her interpretation of “September Song,” a poetic metaphor comparing a person’s lifespan from birth to death. “September Song” is an American pop standard composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson and introduced by Walter Huston in the 1938 Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday. It was written as an emotional love song from an older man to a younger woman and has been recorded by numerous singers and instrumentalists, from Frank Sinatra to James Brown. There is a hidden meaning in Sarah’s heartfelt version, an earnest lyrical lament. Could it be a persuasive plea from an older person to a younger person not to waste time, especially when it comes to relationships?
. . . But, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game
Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you
You think differently about time as you get older. It seems that when you are younger, your perception is that the times of your life will go on forever. Now that nearly two-thirds of my life is over, I have come to realize how foolish it is to waste any of it. The more that I am aware of time and the brevity of life, the more I want to make the most out of every moment. There is a Law of the Universe concerning time: “We all get the same amount of it and once it goes by, we can never get it back!”
In February 2010, I was in a near-fatal car accident. To this day, I compulsively cringe and then jump when I see headlights approaching the side of my vehicle, just praying that they will stop. Since then, I have made the decision to be adaptable, teachable and forgiving. I have spent way too much time living in regret and remorse. I cannot erase time, but I must live every day as if it is my last on earth.
In the previous steps of recovery, we have started the repair work on the personal side of our lives: admitting our powerlessness, turning our lives and wills over to God’s care and control, and confessing our wrongdoings to others and God. In this phase of our recovery, we are ready for real change as we begin the repair work on the relational side of our lives. Maybe you feel like giving up, with too many struggles and difficulties to work through.
In recovery, making amends is one of the most complicated places to be, but the fact is simple—making amends is not so much about your past as it is about your future. Before you can have healthy relationships in the future, you must come to terms with those you have hurt and those who have hurt you. We must learn to forgive ourselves and others to make the most out of the times in our lives. It is critical to the success of the recovery process. When we come to this place where we cannot handle life, God’s persistent love is there to get us through those tough situations and people, one moment at a time.
Forgiving yourself is one thing, but forgiving the perpetrator of wrongdoing is another. Perhaps as you recall the memory of such acts, your mind fills with sadness and even fear. As silent words appear in your mind while you hold tightly to your clammy hands, your heart races and pounds within your chest. Dealing with the emotional pain of all you have done to others and what others have done to you seems impossible! Even though the butterflies and that “kicked-in-the-stomach feeling” hold your unsteady mind in confusion, you are ready and resolved that the times of your life must change. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired! You are tired of the insanity cycle: “doing the same old things and expecting different results.”
Just being sorry is one thing, but making amends is genuine remorse in action. Two things are noted; making amends breaks down the sadness and reaches through the black hole of bitterness. Also, making amends allows the finger of God to point toward your conscience. Real change and overwhelming victory is ahead! Remember this, everything that has happened is in the design to make you stronger. In many cases after amends, relationships are strengthened and become even more meaningful.
Dwelling on the past only leaves you in an unsafe place in your mind. For so long, you have verbalized silently and aloud your regrets. Clearly, people do not care how much you know until you show them how much you care! Pride must take a fall so that the amends process can be successful and real victory can occur. Pride is toxic and destructive when it comes to the healing of interpersonal relationships.
No matter what part of the world you live in, there are certain universal truths about being human. And one of them is that it is for us hard to say “I’m sorry.” However, as people mature and learn more about themselves, including what it really means to live with integrity and accountability, it gets easier to say these words. You have to live with yourself as well as your words and actions. To avoid living in the toxicity of guilt and shame, you need to make amends. This means using both words and actions. Below are some tips for how to say “I’m sorry” with both words and actions.
• Think carefully about your motives beforehand
• Apologize from a sincere place in your heart
• Apologize face to face whenever possible
• Keep your apology concise
• Focus on what you did
• Don’t justify, minimize or rationalize
• Honestly recognize the error of your ways
• Expect nothing in return
• Be humble, honest, sincere and willing
• Be committed not to let this circumstance happen again
• Back up your words through actions
• Reflect true sorrow and a desire to change, or your words are truly meaningless
• Take responsibility for your actions
• Your actions must reflect your words. After all, actions always speak louder than words
• Your actions must show that you are honestly sorry
• Learn not to be so reactive
• Be more patient and gentle with yourself and others
• Be sincerely repentant.
• Don’t attempt to do this without prayer!
• Wait for God and his perfect timing before taking action!
Courageous ones, as you move forward in this step, I encourage you to pray for willingness—willingness to evaluate all your past and present relationships. God will strengthen you as you become willing to make amends. Ask forgiveness from those whom you have hurt and the harm you’ve done to others. This is all possible because of God’s love and forgiveness that is extended to us. Don’t let the darkness and pain of the past destroy your future! Life is too short to live in such bondage! Enjoy the freedom and blessings by making amends.
Oh the days dwindle down
To a precious few . . .
September, November . . .
And these few precious days
I’ll spend with you
To learn more about recovery: Celebrate Recovery is that safe-place where people can remove the mask of denial and be open and honest. If you are interested in finally dealing with the pain of your past, there are people who will stand with you as the truth becomes a way of life. In Celebrate Recovery, where anonymity and confidentiality are basic requirements, one can address life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups utilizing biblical truths. One can find change in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the one and only Higher Power. There are now three Celebrate Recovery meetings in Murfreesboro: one every Monday at 7 p.m. at North Boulevard Church of Christ, 1112 Rutherford Blvd.; one every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Belle Aire Baptist Church, 1307 Rutherford Blvd.; and another every Thursday at 7 p.m. at New Vision Baptist Church, 1750 Thompson Lane. For more information about the ministry call Tom Christy at (615) 896-6288.