One of the realities of life is that we are all flawed. The Bible tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Because we all have faults; our relationships can suffer damage – sometimes even major injury. How can we repair a relationship which is damaged due to sin and failure?
When we fail a friend or our spouse, we need to apologize. This involves more than the perfunctory, “I’m sorry.” To effectively apologize, we need to admit that what we did was wrong. It is amazing that this is a step many never take. I have talked to scores of people who tell me, “my spouse has never admitted that he/she was wrong.” It is hard to forgive someone who thinks they did no wrong – so admit it. Embrace it. Don’t make excuses or blame the other person. Too many people say, “Yes, I was wrong…. but I would never have done this if you hadn’t done that.” That can make matters worse. “If I admit that I was wrong, they may never let it go.” No, it is your stubborn refusal to admit your transgression that makes it almost impossible for them to “let it go.”
Another step when you have wronged someone is to empathize. “It must have felt terrible when I forgot our anniversary. It must have seemed like it was not important to me. I’m so sorry!” When we interact this way, we are owning our actions and how we hurt our loved one.
It is also good to share your plan for change. “I know I forget things – and I never want to hurt you again like this. So I am going to set a reminder on my phone, highlight my calendar a month ahead and do anything else I can never to do this to you again.” Having a plan and communicating this shows that your apology was not mere words. You take what you did seriously and you are committed to changing.
Finally, it is important to give people time. Questions such as “when will you get over this?” are inappropriate. Honoring and loving someone requires allowing them time to heal. Refusing to do so can reinjure them or delay their healing.
We have all hurt others and we have all been hurt. Since we all need forgiveness, we should be willing to forgive others. In addition, we should look to God who offers “no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1)
James S. Danner is pastor of Grace Community Church (www.GCCValdosta.org) and counselor with Grace Counseling (www.GraceValdosta.com)