Summary: If we hurt someone, verbally or physically, God expects us to do the best we can to bring healing to the situation. When we haven’t done that, we often live with a lingering sense of guilt or condemnation.

Summary: If we hurt someone, verbally or physically, God expects us to do the best we can to bring healing to the situation.

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Ask Others to Forgive You

Ask forgiveness, learn a lesson, and earn trust

 

 

 

Doug Britton, MFT
www.dougbrittonbooks.com

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Part four of a four-part series on “Overcoming Guilt and Shame”

Apologize to people you hurt

If we hurt someone, verbally or physically, God expects us to do the best we can to bring healing to the situation.

Most of us are amateurs at apologizing to others and asking for forgiveness for our sins, whether for speaking in anger, breaking a promise, gambling away the rent money, or anything else.

Why is this so hard? The most common reason is pride. Another is the fear that if you apologize, you open yourself up to verbal attacks. Plus, you may feel like you are weak if you apologize. God looks at it differently. He sees you as humble and strong in his Spirit.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)

When you apologize, follow a two-step process:

Step one — Apologize.

Say “I’m sorry” for what you said or did.

Be specific. Don’t merely say “I’m sorry for the problem” or “I’m sorry you are unhappy.” Say exactly what you did wrong. For example, “I’m sorry I spoke rudely.” Here are some more guidelines:

  • Approach others before they complain.
  • Ask God to forgive you.
  • Pray for a humble attitude. Don’t make excuses.
  • Apologize even if the other person is angry.
  • Apologize even if the other person was also at fault. Do not turn an apology into an accusation.

If you … remember that your brother has something against you … go and be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

Make it personal

1. Do you need to apologize more often? Explain your answer.

2. Which of the previous points will help you apologize in a way that pleases God?

Should you apologize for past sins?

This Bible study is focussed on asking forgiveness from time-to-time as you go through life.

But what if you have a backlog of offenses for which you have never apologized? Now may be a good time to wipe the slate clean. Ask God to show you any past wrongs you committed against people—and whether or not you should apologize for them.

In general, we should confess to people we have wounded, but there are times when it would be unwise or harmful to do so. If your apology might hurt or injure the person you originally wounded, the most loving thing to do may be not to contact that person. For example, confessing to the spouse or partner of everyone you have had sex with probably would not be loving or wise. Likewise, if you raped someone in the past, any efforts to bring healing would likely reopen old wounds and cause harm.

On the other hand, If you are married it’s usually best to be completely open and honest.

There are no absolute rules about when to ask for forgiveness, but these general guidelines can help:

  • Ask God to give you a willing heart to apologize.
  • Ask God for wisdom about whom you should apologize to.
  • Ask a pastor or mature Christian friend for advice
  • Ask God for wisdom in the words you say.
  • Wait. Don’t impulsively call, text, or email. Pray before doing anything.

Related: God cares about the way you talk

Make it personal

3. Are you willing to apologize for past sins? Why or why not?

4. Are there people you should apologize to? If so, who are they?

5. Are there people it would harm if you apologized? If so, how can you pray for them?

Step two — Ask for forgiveness.

Follow up your apology by asking, “Will you forgive me?” There is real power in these four words. Asking for forgiveness brings peace. It makes it easier for others to forgive you and sets the stage for rebuilding trust.

What do you think?

6. Why is it a good idea to ask for forgiveness?

7. Do you usually ask for forgiveness after you apologize? Explain your answer?

Related: Why should I forgive him or her?

Deal with the consequences of your actions

Rebuild trust.

If you have wounded people, don’t expect them to forgive you immediately. Be ready to earn their trust back.

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8)

Make restitution if needed.

If you sinned against others, take care of any moral or legal consequences. If you lied, tell the truth. If you stole money, do everything you can to pay it back.

Let God know you are willing to do whatever it takes to try to make things right. Be like Zacchaeus. When he invited Jesus to his home, he felt awful about his sins and said:

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)

Answer unforgiveness with love.

If someone does not respond to your “will you forgive me?” with, “Yes, I forgive you,” you have a chance to show how sorry you really are. If you respond, “In that case, I’m not sorry,” you prove your apology was insincere. Instead, say something such as, “I understand, and I hope you can forgive me in the future.”

Related: Forgiveness is a choice

Make it personal

8. Read Hebrews 12:5-6. Why does it say not to “lose heart” when God rebukes you?

9. How will you respond if someone reacts poorly when you apologize?

Ask God to help you learn from the situation

Turn the unpleasant, difficult consequences of sin into powerful teaching tools for your life. Learn from what happened. Analyze why you sinned.

  • What were your excuses? Were you giving in to peer pressure? Were you feeling sorry for yourself? Were you looking for comfort?
  • What were the first steps you took on the path to sin?
  • What were decision points as you walked down that path?
  • What preventive actions will you take to avoid committing that sin in the future?
  • What will you do if you are tempted again?

Realize that God can bring good out of your sin.

God can bring good out of your failures. As you just read, we can learn from our mistakes and grow closer to him. (Many people learn more from their failures than from their successes.)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Don’t give up because you sinned.

When you asked God to forgive you, he forgave you. Accept his forgiveness and press on. Walk in humility of spirit, but with your head held high, because the king of kings has forgiven you.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Make it personal

10. How can you “hold your head high” and have “humility of spirit” when you have done something wrong?

Asking forgiveness — Memory verse

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

Personal application

1. What are some guidelines to giving a good apology?

2. Is it important to ask for forgiveness after apologizing? Why or why not?

3. How should you respond if someone doesn’t forgive you? If it’s a Christian, should you give a lecture about how he or she is supposed to forgive you? Why or why not?

4. Read Romans 8:28. How can good come out of your sin?

5. What lesson can you learn from Luke 19:8?

6. Do you need to apologize to someone? Make a plan. Who will you apologize to? When will you apologize? What will you say?

7. Do you need to attempt to win back someone’s trust? If so: Who is it?  What steps will you take to win back his or her trust? What have you learned from previous times you sinned that can help you in the future?

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Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com for practical, biblical, cross-cultural books, Bible studies, and ebooks.

Click here to print this Bible study

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