Six Steps to Sorry

We are in a series on love and I started to reflect on all the ways relationships can go wrong and the tools we need to get right again. Have you ever received a non-apologetic apology? The kind where someone says they are sorry, but doesn’t seem sorry? You know something is missing and it can be worse than no apology.

Sometimes we hear a political or business figure come clean about their wrongdoing and it feels like the apology was mostly their response to getting caught…a side-stepping of responsibility for the sake of image management.

It happens in our daily life too…with our families and at work. Can you recall a time when you’ve apologized for something you’ve done but found yourself not really meaning it? Or perhaps you’ve been in a disagreement that ends with one or both of you apologizing, but no one is happy?

We all make mistakes. We all have to say we’re sorry at some point. It’s worth getting good at it! Bad apologies not only hurt relationships, they hurt us. When we learn how to whole-heartedly confess our mistakes and say we are sorry, we can find freedom, truth, and healing. Here are six phrases I find helpful when asking for forgiveness.

  1. I did this: (Acknowledgement) The phrase “I did this” may be one of the most freeing self-awareness statements we can make to another person. “I did this…” says to the other person that you get what happened, frees them from having to explain to you or convince you of reality.
  2. It was wrong: (Understanding) Saying “It was wrong” makes the world sane for the person you have hurt!
  3. I’m sorry: (Remorse) Genuine remorse says you are safe, approachable and that the person is of immense value and importance to you.
  4. Please forgive me: (Request) We are never entitled to someone’s forgiveness. Asking gives the other person space to forgive when they are ready.
  5. I commit to new behavior: (Repentance) Growth and transformation is a gift our mistakes and the people who have been hurt by them give back to us. We can be forgiven without this step, but we can never be truly restored unless we discover new ways to live.
  6. I will do the work I need to do to repair the damage I have caused: (Restoration) Repairing the damage is the extra mile we walk in repairing the relationship we have damaged.

I believe these six phrases are an irreducible minimum when it comes to confession and asking for forgiveness. Take out any one statement and the conversation—and relational healing—fails. These six statements can put you on a journey of owning up, healing, and growing that you don’t want to miss.

I invite you to reflect on these phrases, practice them even when you wrong someone in the smallest of ways and see if they help you.

Theme: Confession and Forgiveness

Scripture: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. – Ephesians 4:31 (NIV)

Practice: For the next week, practice saying all 6 phrases, no matter how minor the offense, whenever possible!

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