It’s hard to ask for forgiveness after we’ve done the wronging, isn’t it?
Many years ago, I betrayed the confidences that two people entrusted to me. Though I could justify my reason for sharing at the time, the Holy Spirit convicted me about my loose lips. I rationalized that my two friends never needed to know what I’d done. No, that wasn’t one of my shining moments.
But that’s not how God operates. His Spirit pressed on my heart to the point that it was hard to breathe deep, and I couldn’t face either of these women. God impressed the need to ask for forgiveness. I delayed obedience for a time. It was going to be shaming to confess what I’d done.
Granted, this isn’t a “big” offense, but I had knowingly sinned against these two women.
How do we ask for forgiveness when we’ve done the “wronging”?
We need to align our thoughts and our hearts with God.
- First, we own our sin before the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. God already knows what we’ve done. But, confessing to Him renews our fellowship. We need to be right with Him first because He’s our Father. And He can pave the way for renewed relationship or reconciliation with others.
- Humble ourselves.When we’ve sinned against someone, we can justify our actions, like I did. This is pride. Whether or not we had just cause for our actions, if we’ve wronged someone, we need to make it right. And this requires humility.
- Pray for both hearts. Before we ask for forgiveness from someone, pray for the other person’s heart and for ours. Asking for forgiveness is uncomfortable. We’re admitting we did something that hurt the other person in some way. When hurt feelings are present, hearts need extra, supernatural tending. Invite the Lord into the conversation.
- Talk with the other person and ask for forgiveness. Be honest and specific about what we’ve done. When we choose not to give an explanation of the why behind our actions, it’s powerful. Something happens when we own our actions. The other person doesn’t need to be defensive because we’re not justifying our wrong. It’s okay—even good—to think out in advance how we want to ask for forgiveness. If it helps to say the words out loud, do so.
- Release our expectations. When we leave the results of the conversation up to the Lord, it’s easier to accept whatever the other person’s response is.
- Give the other person time to process and respond. Especially when hurt runs deep, the other person may not be quick to forgive. They may become angry. Don’t become defensive. They may need time to determine their response to us. God’s word says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.” (Romans 12;18, NASB). When we are obedient to ask for forgiveness, we’ve done our part. It’s God’s role to help the other person come to the place where they can forgive . . . however long that takes.
- Choose love and kindness, regardless of if the other person says, “I forgive you,” a loving response affirms our commitment to repentance and change.
- If we need to make things right somehow, do so. Whether this requires monetary compensation, replacing something we broke or ruined, or another action, making amends goes a long way in restoring relationship and showing we are sincere.
Do’s and don’ts when we ask for forgiveness
- Don’t ask for forgiveness over text. Do it in person, if possible. Facing the person we’ve wronged adds authenticity to the gesture.
- Don’t do so when emotions still run high. When we’ve aligned our hearts with the Lord, we’ll handle the conversation better than if we’re still in the middle of high emotion.
- Do find a time for the conversation that is as distraction-free as possible
- Do express sincerity when we talk with the person
I went on to speak individually with each of the women I had hurt. I confessed what I had done and asked them to forgive me. One friendship ended as a result of my poor choice. I had to let that go. The other woman forgave me and showed it by continuing to trust me with her friendship.
I received the freedom and grace that come from forgiveness offered. When we are honest after wronging someone and they forgive us, relationships can grow in trust and depth as a result of our honesty.
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