When it comes to reconciling a broken relationship, Jesus told his disciples that they should consider their own faults and sinfulness before rushing to point out someone else’s sin.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
When we have a log in our eye we are unable to clearly see the speck in someone else’s eye. The first step to reconciling a broken relationship is recognizing the role that our sin has played in the brokenness. Once we see our sin for what it is, we can begin the process of reconciliation by confessing our sin to God and to those we have sinned against.
In his book The Peacemaker, Ken Sande writes about the Seven A’s of Confession. These steps are a helpful guide to confessing our sin without passing or shifting the blame.
1. Address Everyone Involved.
If the sin is a social sin, meaning that you have committed a sin in which your words or actions have affected others, then the sins should be confessed to everyone affected. This may be an individual, or a group of people. Your confession should reach as far as your sin.
2. Avoid If, But and Maybe
Using words such as “if” “but” and “maybe” demonstrates a reluctance to accept responsibility for the sin. Saying, “I’m sorry if I hurt you,” indicates that you are unaware if you hurt them or not. It appears that you do not know why you are apologizing. Instead simply say, “I am sorry that I hurt you.” Do not add conditions to your confession.
3. Admit Specifically
When you confess sins specifically, it helps the other person know that you are aware of exactly what you did. It also shows them what behaviors you intend to change. A vague confession demonstrates that you are still trying to hide or cover up a sin. Confess specifically and thoroughly.
4. Acknowledge the Hurt
Before you confess, take time to consider how your sin hurt the other person. Put yourself in their shoes. When you confess your sin, acknowledge to the other person that you are aware of the ways that your actions hurt them.
5. Accept the Consequences
Sin always has consequences. Do not try to avoid the results of your sin. Work hard to repair the damage of your sin. This demonstrates genuine repentance, and it will help you regain the trust of others.
6. Alter Your Behavior
A confession without a change in behavior is empty. Continuing in the same patterns and behaviors which hurt the relationship in the first place will only continue to drive the other person away from you. You will lose their trust, and they will not be as willing to reconcile after future confessions.
7. Ask for Forgiveness (and Allow Time)
You should always provide the other person with the opportunity to forgive you, but do not force the forgiveness on them. They may need time to process before they are willing to genuinely forgive you. If they seem reluctant to forgive, let them know that they can take their time. You may need to circle back after some time and restate your confession and apology in order to adequately express regret for your actions.
Confession is always the first step toward reconciliation. Do not wait for the other person to approach you with their heart-felt confession of all the ways that they have hurt you. Take the initiative. Confess your sins and begin the process of reconciliation.
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13