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How to ask for forgiveness

When I was headed to Haiti two months ago, I thought I saw him at a restaurant and I got a queasy feeling. Funny how 30 years later, I’m still bothered by it. Dario, if you’re out there, I forgive you. You made my life miserable for an entire year at a time in life when I was vulnerable. You…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
When I was headed to Haiti two months ago, I thought I saw him at a
restaurant and I got a queasy feeling. Funny how 30 years later, I’m
still bothered by it. Dario, if you’re out there, I forgive you. You
made my life miserable for an entire year at a time in life when I was vulnerable. You
used your position for personal gain. And ultimately I had no
recourse but to hire another board of directors and fire you. Of course,
for that, you probably need to forgive me. We had a messy relationship that ended badly, you and me.


The fact is, we’re all in need of forgiveness and
we all need to forgive. If we could just learn how to do it, life would
be so much better. And that’s why I recommend 

Peacemakers. They help you work through the inevitable conflict life brings using biblical principles. I list below their “Seven A’s of Confession.” Let me encourage you to go through them. Commit these principles to memory and implement them and you will find that Jesus gives you peace.

If we admit our wrongs in a thorough, biblical manner, we open the door for forgiveness and meaningful change.

Address everyone involved. Confess to each person who has been affected by your wrongdoing (Ps. 41:4; Luke 19:8).

Avoid ifs, buts, and maybes. Consciously delete words that dilute your confession, excuse your conduct, or shift blame to others (1 John 1:8-9). As Dr. Tony Evans says, “If it contains an excuse, it isn’t a confession.”

Admit specifically what you did wrong. Don’t hide behind vague generalities. Specifically identify your sinful attitudes (pride, selfishness, greed, envy, bitterness, ingratitude, stubbornness, etc.) and actions. Then admit that what you did was wrong because it violated God’s will (Ps. 51).

Apologize. Acknowledge and express sorrow for the fact that your actions hurt the other person. Ask the person to explain how he or she was affected by your actions.

Accept the consequences. Explicitly accept full responsibility for what you have done. This may require fulfilling a promise, making restitution, or losing benefits or privileges (Luke 15:19; 19:8).

Alter your behavior. Commit to changing your behavior in specific ways in the future with God’s help (Prov. 28:13).

Ask for forgiveness. Finally, ask the person you wronged to forgive you, and, if necessary, allow time for that person to work through his or her feelings (Gen. 50:17).

Comments (11)

  • I first read this book in, um, I think it was 2001. Clinton recommended it to me when there were some very heavy problems going on at my church. It’s amazing, and can fruifully be applied to every area of life. I recommend it highly. Funny that you should bring it up. I just re-read it about a month ago.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    This gets tough sometimes. Not the humility to ask forgiveness, but the wisdom to know what to apologize for, especially when they have wronged you, but they have been playing the victim role their whole life. The walking wounded.

  • It is interesting that peacemaking has been a huge focus for me lately; it has been a part of our sermon series at church on the Beatitudes, been tested in my relationships with those closest to me (being a peacemaker instead of a peacekeeper…they are miles apart) and most importantly in living it, expressing humility. And often speaking up, and saying the first words are a necessary step, but so difficult. But we risk becoming doormats and falling into our own personalized pity party if we don’t.

    And it has so much to do with loving our enemies at times as well, and that is tough to live out.

  • Thanks Seth. This is a wonderful organization by the way. And interestingly enough they have a very difficult time in their fund development efforts because their cause is not perceived by many as being worthy for financial investment. A friend (Karen Strong) is on their board.

  • My first encounter with Peacemaker Ministries was through a former employer. Our CEO and COO both spoke highly of them. I still have some of the literature. Wonderful ministry concept. They are highly regarded.

  • Hey Seth,

    what will you do about your feelings toward Dario? I am in a situation with a person that I am no longer in contact with, but I still feel nauseous just thinking about. I am learning about conflict now with my church and Celebrate Recovery, but I wonder if I should go dig up something that is…in the past? (happened last year, HIGHLY unlikely I will ever see the person again)

  • Chistine,

    thanks for asking. I’d love to have a conversation with him about it. I look back on what happened and say, “Man, there’s so much we both didn’t know then. We needed grace, for each other and for ourselves.”

    I hope I’d treat him with the respect he’s due. I

    As to your situation, if it makes you nauseous, I’d dig around and unearth the infected parts of the relationship. It’s no fun, but your freedom is worth it.

  • Response to Christine (#7): I am reading “Unpacking Forgiveness” now (Chris Brauns). It may answer all your questions about forgiveness, and it’s very biblical. I highly recommend it. Blessings of grace as you follow Jesus in this difficult area!

  • Having a grudge for a humiliation is the worst thing that can bedevil anybody. Always forgive and forget. It helps your life and builds stronger relationship. Always find away to forgive.It will help your spiritual growth and give you a more relax mind for the challenges of the future.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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