Making Amends and Reparation for hurting others

Recently God has opened my eyes to my terrible sin of detraction. For my whole life I have said negative things about people to others, complaining and talking behind their backs. A talk by a priest I was listening to recently said we must make reparation for gossip.

Some of these people I have no contact with any longer. Others are family members or friends. Family is already divided and confessing my faults might drudge up more animosity within the family.

Is there a recommended way of righting this wrong? Do I say prayers for these people? Do I go and ask their forgiveness? Have a Mass offered for them? I’d rather fix this now than spend time in purgatory.

In my experience, the best thing to do in a situation like this is to talk to your priest. He should be able to guide you in what you need to do. Please know that you are in my prayers.

I agree with this advice. It can be tricky to know to whom one should make amends directly. I’m in a 12 Step program & the 9th Step is: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

You might want to do Step 8 first, so you don’t just have a vague idea that you’ve harmed people: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

I found the 8th Step to be incredibly difficult at first.

I agree with talking with a priest about this and seeing what he says first… but my first thoughts when reading this were:

A good reparation would be to tell people (kindly) who are gossiping to you of how bad of a sin it is and that you don't wish to be a part of it.  Inform them.  Make a boundary.   It hurts to do that, and people will either respect you for it, or they will hate you.   But to remind others of this, is one way to make reparation, as you will be trying to spare those that they are trying to gossip about with you.     In a way, this is paying it forward.  

I don’t think we can do anything for those past hurts we caused except pray for them. It takes a ton of guts to stand up for what is right especially when our reputation and how we will be received by others is at stake. … But that is just my opinion.

I have to say that I’m very thankful someone else we know started pointing it out and making that boundary first. It happened a couple years ago, but caught my attention and over time has become even more obvious to me how serious it can be- thanks to them.

I’m definitely going to ask my confessor. It’s hard to make changes after habits have already been formed, and when dealing with certain people you can’t just cut out of your life.

I agree with all the replies. May I suggest the study of the bible and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a kempis. Assiduous reading of the bible will become a door to the application of the principles of the Imitation of Christ (termed the golden book by Pius XII). The principles of the IOC with dispose your soul to regard no attachment to venial sin, and thereby be properly disposed to receive plenary indulgences under the usual conditions. In fine, a life lived to assiduously perform works of indulgences is an imitation of Christ and essential to the Sacrament of Penance. This upright direction with Mary will steer you away from purgatory and hell.

Is the Imitation of Christ one of the books St. Therese loved? If so, it is on my reading list!

Great advice about Imitation of Christ and speaking with a holy priest who will take the issue seriously.

I was told by a priest that I am required to restore the person’s reputation to the extent that I am able. I had to Google someone I hadn’t spoken to in almost 25 years to get their contact info, and restore someone’s reputation. It was humiliating but incredibly freeing.

I’d really strongly recommend the book Sins of the Tongue: The Backbiting Tongue. It’s a very old, very brief book that covers detraction and reparation for detraction from many, many angles.

Thanks, I will look at that one, too.

This is what happened with me as well, only, not the topic of gossip, but something else I was completely unaware of that I was doing, and it wasn’t malicious as it just was I was stupid and unaware of what was right! I’m also thankful to this person they lovingly but firmly pointed it out to me. I didn’t want to be that way but did not see it in myself, and in a way that person who brought it to my attention loved me more than those who I was friends with, because they saw it and never thought to do the difficult thing in calling my attention to it, helping me out of it. They didn’t want to ‘upset’ me. :shrug: This one person who kindly corrected me thought more of me than my so called friends thought of me! What she did took guts. Good guts.

It is hard to make changes, but with God its totally possible... in fact, that is what astounds me the most about my faith walk, is how things DID change!!!!    And for the better...  maybe not in outside personal life, but within.  (Read about Holy Spirit in Scripture)    Remember the mustard seed!   There is a saying out today that it takes something like 90 days of doing something to make it a habit.   That's not a whole lot of time, actually!
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit