A few days ago, I wrote an article titled How to Forgive Someone Who Ripped Your Life Apart. That article was written for the purpose of dealing with the topic of forgiveness on a new level, a real level involving hard topics and pain.
Then, it hit me. It is possible some of you who read that article were actually the ones to inflict the pain and you long for forgiveness. So, let’s talk about that.
This is is not an article about apologizing to someone you cut off in traffic (you should know how to do that), this is an article talking about how to apologize to someone you hurt deeply.
Generally speaking, most people never apologize. I believe that is in part why the pain of their hurt can go on for so long, it’s almost like a tie gets created that binds you to that person who hurt you and the only way to cut that tie is through forgiveness whether or not you ever get an apology.
If we could only develop a habit of owning our mistakes and apologizing, I believe we would avoid so much unnecessary pain.
A pinterest quote about forgiveness is not actual forgiveness. An instagram post about past pain and apologies is not the same as a real apology. Put the computer down and be brave enough to deal with people face to face.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacefully with all.” Romans 12:18
Here are a few practical, real life ways you can tackle a hard apology:
1. Pray for God’s Timing: First, you need to pray, ask forgiveness from God and then pray about how you will ask forgiveness from the person(s) you hurt and allow God to lead that. This is important, if you’ve really hurt someone, you’ll need a bit of wisdom to determine how and when to apologize. Also, in some cases, this apology might need to come in the form of a letter or e-mail simply because a face to face meeting might be impossible or a bad idea. Pray for wisdom in your situation.
2. Understand the Why: Understand you have committed some sort of wrong towards someone else and you seek forgiveness and peace. If you’re going to apologize, it is important that it be genuine even if the other person(s) does not receive it.
“So, what if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that someone has something against you? Leave your gift there and go make peace with that person. Then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
3. Accept Responsibility: I think this one of the most important things in an apology, the other person needs to hear you accept responsibility even in the worst of situations, own your mistake. Even if the person you are apologizing to is not ready to hear it yet, they will remember what you have said.
You are doing your part, you can’t fix the situation entirely but you can loosen the grip of pain and grab hold of the freedom in forgiveness because a true apology ultimately, frees you too.
4. Be Honest & Remorseful: This the time to be honest, to cry and to be remorseful (truly). Usually if a person has been hurt, they just need to know you understand how bad you hurt them and what it did to them. It’s that understanding that bridges the gap to peace. I firmly believe there would be less strife in this world if people would realize this, people long to simply be understood.
5. Change: Change is the result of forgiveness, it does not take the place of an apology, it is the result of a heartfelt apology and the overflow of God’s grace. Take the pain, the hurt and the sadness caused in this situation and turn it for good, take a positive path and do your best to never make the same mistake again.
To be clear, we are not talking about simply saying “I’m sorry.” That is probably one of the most overused and non-meaningful phrases used today. This is more than that, anyone can say “I’m sorry” but few say “I’m sorry for X, I know I have caused you pain, will you forgive me?”
One of the most powerful questions you could ever ask is, “Will you forgive me?” There’s so much in that, there’s freedom in that. Keep in mind, the other person might not be ready. They may need to grieve, they may hold onto their pain for a little while. That is ok, pray for them, let God work in them. This is about you, recognizing a mistake, asking for forgiveness and allowing God’s grace to wash all over you.
Again, most of us never receive an apology, we forgive by the grace of God. But, could you imagine how much peace and grace would flow if we could just admit when we have hurt someone else and ask for forgiveness?
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
I dare you to be brave today. I dare you to take a deep breath and pick up the phone, send that e-mail or meet that person for coffee and ask that question, the question that brings freedom and the question that bridges the gap to peace, will you forgive me?
Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together, no masks and no curtains. Sarah holds a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com, she is creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast and is featured daily on GEB TV.