Step Four in Forgiving Others: Ask
In forgiving others, we acknowledge our pain. Admit our anger or resentment. Accept our responsibility. Then ask for forgiveness.
We say some of the ten hardest words in the English language: “I am sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
We don’t defend ourselves or blame the other person. Rather, we take responsibility for what we said or did, or what we should have said or done, and ask for forgiveness. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Furthermore, we ask for forgiveness within the circle of our offense. The wider our offense, the larger the circle, the more people to whom we need to confess.
Sometimes our inner attitudes or feelings of anger or resentment haven’t spilled over onto others through our speech or actions. So we only seek forgiveness from God.
Yet if our anger or resentment has led into some outburst to another person, then we apologize to that one person. And if we have let our anger or resentment seep out to our family or a group of people, then we apologize to that group.
Other all-important aspects to consider when asking for forgiveness include the other person’s frame of mind, a private moment, and timing. I’ve sometimes told the Lord, “I am ready to ask for forgiveness. Help me know when the right moment comes. And give me the courage when you say ‘now’ to follow through with it.”
When your heart is right before God, it will most likely be sooner than later. A face-to-face conversation is always best. A phone call can work too.
Asking for forgiveness by letter, email, or text is easiest to be misunderstood, can backfire making matters worse, and is recommended only in very limited circumstances. Ideally, you want to have a conversation, even if it is brief.
You can’t predict the other person’s response either, nor can you expect them to reciprocate. You can only deal with your side. You have to live with God and with yourself. So living with a “conscience clear before God and man” is the best path to follow (Acts 24:16).
Action step: Ask for forgiveness appropriate to the offense committed, at the appropriate time, in an appropriate Christlike manner.
~ Pastor Dave