Why is offering a genuine apology so difficult?
It takes humility to go to someone and put ourselves in a vulnerable position by asking for forgiveness. Apologizing is an acknowledgment of our failure in a relationship with another person, and it’s embarrassing to admit that we were wrong, and acted or reacted out of line.
When we offend or hurt someone, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we need to approach them and ask for their forgiveness.
We need to humble ourselves and give a genuine apology to them, and God, because when we hurt others we also hurt him.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Mistake
The first part of this process is recognizing that we made a mistake. There should be no excuses given. Sometimes we’re unwilling to apologize until we’re caught red-handed, and even then we try to whitewash our actions by making excuses and explaining our reasons for our actions.
King David learned that covering up and making excuses for his behavior caused him emotional conflict. He wrote, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long for day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4)
This is the time that we should acknowledge our own wrongdoing and hurtful actions with a repentant heart, not one that still harbors feelings of anger and pride, but one that is full of the fruits of the Spirit.
Step 2: Ask For Forgiveness
The second part is approaching the person that we’ve hurt or offended and asking for their forgiveness, as well as that of our Heavenly Father. Romans 14:19 states, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
This is also depicted in Matthew 5:23-24 where it says that we should go to our brother or sister and seek to restore the relationship. We should be sure that person knows what we’re apologizing for in specific words and actions.
There will be times when your apology will be met with bitterness, disdain, anger, and distrust. Often times this is what we fear most when offering an apology, and it’s something that Jacob himself experienced. After he stole his brother Esau’s, birthright, they didn’t see each other for nearly twenty years, and when they finally met, Jacob was afraid of his brother’s potential desire for revenge. But it didn’t happen! Instead we read the touching exchange described in Genesis 33:3-4, “He [Jacob] went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”
Don’t let fear of another person’s reaction deter you from doing what’s right.
Step 3: Change Your Actions
The third part of this process is changing. Make sure to take the steps to ensure that whatever offense was committed never happens again. An apology is hollow if it doesn’t include any intention to change the wrong behavior. For instance, if someone hurts us, apologizes, and then turns around and does the same thing again, we know that the apology was fake. Don’t be that person! The definition of repent in the Bible means a change of mind, and a turning away from wrong to do right.
Ezekiel 18:30 (NLT) says, “Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you!”
Sadly, we may go through this process, and still not be reconciled to the person that we’ve hurt. Reconciliation isn’t always possible. The other party may not want to accept the apology or we may have hurt the person so much that it permanently damages the relationship.
However, this doesn’t take away the responsibility on our end to walk through the steps above.
I hope this helps if you’re currently walking through the process of reconciliation. Apologies are hard, but let’s do hard things.