In Part 1, I shared about a time when I realized I needed to apologize to a female chaperone during a youth retreat. She and I moved through this episode and had a strong relationship that would not have been possible without an apology. I stated that over the years I have found that many of my best relationships are with individuals with whom I have had a conflict. Frequently I made a mistake, mispoke, or offended the person. Because I was willing to own my problem and apologize for the hurt I caused, we were able to move through the conflict to a strong relationship.
Life is full of interactions with people. There will be times when we offend or hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. A safe place to learn to apologize should be your small group or small Sunday School class. I shared about an article by Rochell Melander that is entitled Learning to Apologize. In the article, Melander said, “Repentance is tough. Apologizing, the step in the process that requires us to admit our fault to the person we have hurt, can be even harder.”
In the article, Melander offers a four-step process that can be helpful for us individually and as a small group as we learning from each other to apologize. In Part 1, I shared the first two of Melander’s four-step process. In Part 2, I will share her third and fourth steps in all capitals followed by my commentary:
MAKING IT RIGHT. If you hear your sin and say you are sorry but fail here (making it right), you won’t be taken seriously. Action is needed. Change is required. It can be beneficial to talk about what can be done to make the situation right and/or to avoid it in the future. A small group can be a great place for this discussion to occur safely. Learning about needs and personalities in the relationship can help in making more appropriate decisions in future interactions. I like Melander’s illustration here: “Often, the fixes in these situations are quite simple. Maybe our congregational member needs some verbal indication that we heard and understood her. Perhaps we need to receive clear requests for help—hints are not enough.”
ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS. This is an important final step. It is essential for us to hear the words, “I forgive you.” They are much more powerful than shrugging off the episode with “No big deal” or Don’t worry about it.” Melander said, “To say ‘I forgive you’ is to say we are letting go of any claim for punishment or payment. We are ending our hold on the other person. We are setting them free.” Those three words are needed in order to move forward without baggage (the sin) in the relationship. And if those words are not spoken, it may be necessary for the offending person to ask, “Do you forgive me?” If the wronged person does not offer the words, a small group could be a good intercessor to encourage (not force) them.
Don’t forget the first two important steps in Part 1 of this series: hearing our sin and saying we are sorry. Add to them these two steps and your apology will be more meaningful and your relationships will be deeper. Don’t allow the sun to set when you have offended a “brother” or a member of your group. Listen. Apologiz e. Make it right. Ask for forgiveness. Learn from each other to apologize. Be revolutionary!