Forgiveness: Part 6 – Steps to Reconciliation
Forgiveness: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and How to Do It
Steps to reconciliation.
As stated in the prior forgiveness articles, forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. Reconciliation testifies of God’s power and of the power of unity in the Body of Christ. It strengthens the individuals involved to resist the attacks of the enemy. And while reconciliation is preferable, it is not always possible.
Restoring a relationship after an offense has occurred takes two cooperating parties. It can only occur to the extent that the two parties agree on each of the steps towards reconciliation. Remember, it may take time to rebuild the trust and reunite the offended with the offender. Also, the type of relationship you have with the person may change from what it was before the offense occurred. Reconciliation does not automatically mean you must become best friends with the one who offended you. Rather, it is restoring a relationship to the degree that it can be. Below are some of the ingredients necessary for rebuilding trust that allows reconciliation to occur.
Repentance: The first step towards reconciliation is repentance. The offender must be willing to confess the transgression and acknowledge the pain it caused the offended. In addition, he or she must have a sincere desire to turn from the circumstances that led to the offense. A person interested in reconciliation exhibits the attributes of humility, honesty, and accountability. Note that forgiveness (what one person does for another) can be accomplished even if the offender doesn’t repent. However, full reconciliation is greatly hindered, and is sometimes impossible, if the offender doesn’t acknowledge the hurt that he caused.
Restitution: In certain cases, the offender needs to provide restitution for what he has done wrong. This process validates the sincerity of repentance. Participating in the restitution process is not for vengeance, but for justice. Vengeance demands payment while justice provides due compensation in accordance with what is deemed right and fair.
Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation may be necessary in order for the individual to return to a better way of life. This is especially true if he or she has fallen into a pattern of unhealthy and ungodly living. This step helps provide us with assurance that the offender has truly changed. Genuine repentance is evidenced by a change in behavior.
At times, individuals struggle most with forgiving themselves even after they have repented, asked for forgiveness from God, and made appropriate confession. Even though they may know (in their heads) that God has forgiven them, they may still feel unforgiven and condemned (in their hearts). Sometimes people condemn themselves because of the shame they feel or because they think they have committed a sin that God would not be willing to forgive.
Remember that Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He may attempt to accuse and condemn you even after you have received forgiveness for sin. Satan’s attempts at accusation should not be mistaken for the Holy Spirit’s conviction (i.e., true guilt). Self-punishment and trying to continually “pay” for or “offer sacrifices” for what occurred doesn’t bring forgiveness. As it says in Hebrews 10:10-12: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;”
Don’t underestimate the extent of God’s forgiveness. Note that, “Although God hates sin, He loves to forgive sin, a truth that flows from His abundant grace, loving-kindness, and compassion.” Walking through steps below may help you receive self-forgiveness.
Trust the Word more than your emotions: Read through Scriptures related to God’s forgiveness and believe they are true even when your feelings don’t confirm it. For example, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Choose to believe it is true, even if it doesn’t feel like it is. God is able and faithful in forgiving us when we come to Him.
Don’t fight alone. Talk to a family member, friend, or mentor who understands forgiveness and who can help support and pray for you as you work through this.
Accept that you are imperfect and that you will make mistakes during your life on earth. While each of us desires to live a life that is free from errors and offenses, we just can’t. Thankfully, we can remember that God understands. The words of Psalm 103:13-14 can bring us comfort: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
Seek help sooner rather than later. At times, clinical depression, perfectionism, or other emotional issues lead to issues with self-condemnation and an inability to move on. Seeking advice from a minister or Christian counselor may help you discover barriers to self-forgiveness and tools to overcome them.
Don’t stay stuck with the pain, anger, and hurt of unforgiveness. Seek God’s help through the Word and prayer; and don’t hesitate to seek counsel from a friend, mentor, minister, or Christian counselor if you need help working through forgiveness. Working through these issues will lead to healing and will provide you with an opportunity to learn more about Christ-like love and how it is lived out on a day-to-day basis.
Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
To view the complete PDF, click here.
- Jeffress, When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense, Ch. 6.
- Ibid., 53-155.
- Worthington, Forgiving and Reconciling, 224-226.
For Further Information:
Forgiving as Christ Forgave
This document by Elder Brother Dan Kilgus is an encouragement to forgive following the example of Christ’s forgiveness. Sub-topics include “Forgiveness Has No Limits,” “What Forgiveness is Not,” “How to Forgive,” and “Forgiving Ourselves.”
This excellent booklet by Dr. Ralph Woerner discusses overcoming minor and major hurts and how to forgive. [Promise Network]
True Guilt/False Guilt & True Guilt/False Guilt Graphic
This document highlights the differences between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt leads to recognition of our need for Jesus and the reality that His work on the cross is sufficient. True guilt leads to pursuing Jesus and therein finding hope. On the other hand false guilt leads to an endless cycle of shame, hopelessness, and despair. [ACCFS]
The Choosing to Forgive Workbook
Authors: Les Carter & Dr. Frank Minirth
This 254-page workbook includes a 12-step plan that guides you through the elements that are crucial to forgiveness and healing.
When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense
Author: Robert Jeffress
Combining rich, biblical insights with practical, real-life situations, When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense effectively answers your burning questions regarding this critical issue, giving you not only the “why’s,” but also the elusive “how’s” of choosing to forgive.