“I’m sorry you feel that way.” “I’m sorry you misunderstood me.” “I’m sorry…that you’re an idiot!” Sometimes we say we’re sorry or even go so far as to apologize. But when was the last time you really asked someone for forgiveness and meant it? Let me share just a few key ingredients to successfully and biblically request forgiveness–forgiveness that will hopefully lead to real and lasting reconciliation.
The rolling of the eyes…the condescending tone of voice. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’m sorry” with your mouth while your body is saying, “you’re an idiot…can we be done with this!?” Body language like this is always a good indicator that there is still work to be done on the heart level. And typically what’s at the heart level is pride. If you truly want to seek forgiveness, you’re going to have to humble yourself and acknowledge your sin and your shortcoming. Proverbs 6:16-19 gives a list of seven things that the Lord detests. At the top of the list is “haughty eyes.”
Anyone can say they’re sorry or apologize, but those statements are so ambiguous. As Christians we need to get a whole lot more specific when we request forgiveness. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” It doesn’t say to confess that you sin, but to actually confess the sin. If you’re having trouble articulating your specific sin as you request forgiveness, maybe you haven’t seen your sin for what it is. If that’s the case you’re probably still struggling with getting humble.
Here’s a practical template for requesting forgiveness in a way that will cover everything we’ve discussed here. In this example I’ll be asking Kelly’s forgiveness (since she’s probably the one I ask it of the most). And hopefully it’s obvious that this needs to be done with a broken and contrite spirit.
“Kelly, I realize that when I (insert specific sin here) that what I did/said was sinful and wrong. Please forgive me. And please continue to confront me if I (insert specific sin here) in the future.”
So you might be thinking, “Yikes! You actually say that? It seems so dramatic and…humiliating!” Yes…it is, and that’s kinda the point. You’ll have to make a concerted effort if you want to actually ask forgiveness that will lead to reconciliation. Next time you sin against someone, take the time to humble yourself and clearly acknowledge your sin. Don’t cop out and just say “I’m sorry,” cause it’s super lame, not helpful, and not biblical.