I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.
–Acts 24:16

There are five important things to keep in mind when you are asking forgiveness.

First, refuse to blame other people. If you say, “We have a problem between us. You are partly responsible, and I am partly responsible. Why don’t we admit both of us are wrong and move on?”–that is doomed to fail. Whenever you are asking forgiveness, even if the other person is 90 percent responsible for the breach in the relationship, don’t blame that person. You concentrate on the 10 percent you are responsible for.

Second, identify the wrong you have committed. Be specific. You are asking to be forgiven for something specific. For example, a person who is guilty of incest in a family and says to his family member, “Well, I realize I haven’t been the kind of uncle I should have been” is never going to receive forgiveness. Remember, the other party is very aware of what you have done. What they want to know is, are you aware of what you have done?

Third, acknowledge the hurt that you caused the other person. The other person wants to know if you understand how much the offense has affected her life. Try reliving the experience through her eyes as you try to imagine the hurt you caused. When people know that you really understand the hurt you have inflicted upon them, they are much more likely to forgive.

Fourth, ask the other person to forgive you. Forgiveness is a transaction in which the other party chooses to release you from your obligation. To lead up to this but not ask the other person to release you not only hurts that person but it hurts you as well. Not only do you need to be forgiven, but the other person needs to offer forgiveness for his own spiritual well-being.

Finally, be prepared for a negative response. Not every time you ask forgiveness results in reconciliation. The other person might say, “I’ll have to think about that.” Sometimes the other party may say, “Are you kidding? After what you did to me, you think a simple ‘I’m sorry’ is going to erase that? Forget it!” Now there may be a reason somebody is hesitant or may even refuse to forgive you. The person may not sense you are truly remorseful. That person may feel guilty for what he has done to you or to somebody else. Some people may not forgive because they want restitution. And others don’t forgive because they fear a repetition of the offense. Finally, some people don’t forgive because they confuse forgiveness with reconciliation.

Whether the other person forgives you is something you ultimately have no control over. But you have control over taking the steps to have a clear conscience with another person.

***

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Right Way to Ask Forgiveness from Someone You’ve Wronged” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.