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June 7, 2024 | By Jay Ashbaucher

Have you ever been angry and said things to someone that you did not mean, things that hurt them? Have you ever betrayed someone’s trust in you? Have you ever lied, or stolen, or failed another by not keeping your word, or by some other kind of wrong? You know you are guilty. You know they were offended and what you did hurt them. You know you need to confess your wrong and ask forgiveness, but maybe, for some reason, you are afraid to tell them. Have you ever done something that was wrong in God’s eyes, and you know God has something against you, and that you need to ask God’s forgiveness? When was the last time you asked anyone to forgive you? Sometimes it seems easy, and sometimes you know you need to do it, but you can’t bring yourself to do it.I think we’ve all experience relationships that have been injured, damaged, splintered, or maybe even shattered and destroyed to the point of parting ways, often with ill feelings never mended. Broken relationships are hurtful and affect our personal mental, spiritual, or bodily health. To live happily, we need healing. Someone I heard speak on this subject likened forgiveness to pins in a bowling alley. They get knocked down, and in order for you to keep playing, they need to be set up again. The way to set them up, if it doesn’t happen automatically, is to press a nearby “reset button” which sets the pins in the upright positions again. Forgiveness is our reset button. When I know someone has something against me, it bothers me. I’m not at peace. Maybe I write it off by saying they deserve what I did. Or maybe I find myself living with the guilt and it’s tearing me up inside. Forgiveness brings healing to our souls.I’ve wronged or hurt others and I’ve experienced all the above-mentioned feelings. Often, I am not at peace with myself, or another person, or God. I also know from God’s good book that when I know anyone has something against me, God wants me to make things right with them (Matthew 5:21-26). If I don’t, I may try to get peace by justifying my words or actions. Otherwise, I am not at peace until I do something. I don’t like it when something is wrong between me and God, or me and another person; I need to ask for forgiveness. I don’t know whether they will forgive me or not. Nevertheless, I must do my part and courageously make the effort. God says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). So how do I ask others to forgive me?

In the Bible, in the prodigal son’s story (Luke 15:11-32), a son leaves home, and one day realizes he has sinned against his father, and his life is not working out well. He needs to go home and ask his father to forgive him. So he makes a plan of what to say. Following is a list of things that could be involved in such a plan. When I need to ask someone’s forgiveness, I refer to this list to help me make my plan. It gives me confidence if I know what I am going to say. And it helps me to say what needs to be done or said to restore the broken relationship.

As you plan words to say in asking forgiveness, consider the following items you may want to include?

  1. Acknowledge your wrongs. (“I need to apologize to you. I am so sorry I …”) Determine how specific you need to be in stating how you wronged them without making matters worse.
  2. Give a description of how this must have, or may have, affected them. This can help them realize that you know the hurt or pain you caused them.
  3. Tell them how bad it made you feel to have hurt them and how sorry you are.
  4. Share what you’ve done about it to make corrections in your life or how you want to change so it doesn’t happen again. This helps show that you are truly sorry and repentant. If you choose, and depending on your relationship, you might want to ask them to help you by reminding you if they see you repeating the same attitude or behavior again.
  5. At the close of your statements, ask them to forgive you. If forgiven, thank them for their forgiveness and that it helped you to be healed from your own pain in the situation.
  6. An optional thought is that you may want to clear up any misunderstandings about who you are, that you are not a person who likes to hurt others, and saying again that you are sorry for the pain you caused them.

Now you need to ask God’s forgiveness. “Why?”, you may ask. Usually, when we have wronged another, we have also done something that God would not have wanted us to do. If you have a relationship with God, you want to make sure all is right between you. It’s like offending a family member. Your family still loves you, but your relationship is damaged until repaired. The same is true with God. He loves you and you repair the damage in your relationship with Him by confessing and agreeing with Him that what you did was wrong in His sight. If you are a believer in Jesus and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, then it is simply a matter of believing you are already forgiven, thanking him for dying for your sin, acknowledging his forgiveness, and believing it. If you are not a believer in Jesus, and that he has taken away your sins in his body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), then you need to take advantage of his invitation for you to believe in him for the forgiveness of your sins. Ask him to come into your life and change you into the person he has created you to be. It is so freeing and healing to one’s soul.

Finally, you need to be able to forgive yourself so that you are not “beating yourself up” or continuing to feel bad about yourself as a person. What I have found that helps me when I do wrong is to remind myself of who I am as a believer in Christ Jesus. In spite of my wrong, I let God know that I still want to live as he wants me to. I thank him for sending Jesus to die for my sin, and I believe that I am forgiven. Then, I remind myself of who God says I am, that to Him I am still His beloved child who has His Spirit living in me. “You belong to me”, God says, “you are my child and I love you. Nothing takes away my love and acceptance of you” (Romans 8:31-39). Knowing how God feels about me makes me feel loved and accepted and that all is ok. God knows my heart and that I will continue to live as He wants me to live, to be like Him by continuing to learn and grow, thus becoming more like He Is.

Personally speaking, asking for forgiveness is a big deal. It brings peace between me and another person who I may have offended or wronged. It brings peace between me and my Creator and Savior. And it enables me to accept myself and to know that I am loved and accepted by God. To know that we are forgiven, loved, and accepted brings healing to our whole being. Others may not forgive and accept us, but God knows our true heart, and He will not let us go back into the pain and loneliness of not being loved (1 John 3:1; 4:15-16).

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