Many times, we can blame ourselves for situations outside of our control. My sister is grumpy, there is not enough food in Africa, someone abused me. This thought that we must fix the situation or have control over what happens leads to us trying to make amends for something for which we are not at fault. I must make her happy, I should not eat so much, I must be a bad person who should change.
However, sometimes we make mistakes. Then it is helpful to own up to our blunder and attempt to remedy the situation. Instead of pointing a finger at someone else or blaming mental illness, I need to use the difficult but important coping skill of taking responsibility and making amends.
This week has been a rough one as far as this skill goes. I am great at blaming myself for situations. When someone begins to accuse me of something, on the other hand, my first instinct is to defend myself. Perhaps this keeps me secure or less ashamed. Mostly, deflecting my mistake attempts to hide from others the anger I feel toward myself.
Instead of letting that deep anger bubbling inside of me, however, I want to face my faults and admit my problems. Sometimes doing this aloud to another person is helpful. Otherwise, you can think it in your own head. By doing this, part of the skill has already been completed; I have taken responsibility.
Now comes an even more difficult part: making things right. This part of the coping skill really depends on your situation. Here are a few ideas that might work for you:
- Apologize to the person or people that you hurt. This is pretty much a requirement for any situation. Sometimes, that is simply enough to make amends. Other times, you might need to go even further such as doing some of the other suggestions.
- Repay any damages or losses you made. For example, fix or replace an item that you broke.
- Perform a good deed in a selfless way. Better yet, do it for a person that you injured anonymously.
- Look for the strengths in someone that you hurt and tell those to them.
- Change a behavior that caused the problem. Be proactive about this. Don’t simply want to change. Start therapy, talk to a friend, etc.
- Pray or meditate about the situation.
Those are just a few suggestions. Many others could be added to this list. If you have any that are very helpful for you, I would like to hear them.
Making amends and taking responsibility is not an easy coping skill. Doing it will make your life much richer though. I am still not very skilled at using this. Yet, I will keep trying to know when I am not in control of the situation and when I caused a problem or made a mistake. Then, humbly admitting that and making things right is better than beating myself up unkindly.