How To Ask for Forgiveness - 4 Steps


I thought I'd blog on a topic few ever talk about, much less practice, but is incredibly important to our sense of peace and happiness. Let's talk about how to seek forgiveness when you have hurt someone. When we hurt someone, we undoubtedly cause a broken relationship. Broken relationships are not healed without someone seeking forgiveness.

Seeking Forgiveness 

Alex wrote me about a horrible situation she got into, one that leaves her craving forgiveness, even if she's not sure what will happen if she asks for it: "One night I made a mistake that I can never take back and it is killing me. I slept with my boyfriend's twin brother and I am now two months pregnant with his child. I don't know how to tell my boyfriend because I don't know if he will be able to forgive me and I love him so much and he means the world to me."

Most people never attempt to heal broken relationships because they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, and it forces them to come face to face with their own pride. It's hard to admit you have done something wrong and put yourself at the mercy of others. We've all seen people try to squirm their way out of a difficult confrontation about something painful they've done. The most insecure people use denial or blaming others to escape from having to wake up to their own failure. Being humble is the key to experiencing forgiveness and healing.

Humble yourself; it's the first step toward being forgiven.

Vicki wrote this story about needing forgiveness: "Early in my relationship with my current boyfriend I cheated on him. I immediately felt awful about it and regretted doing it. Not too long after it happened, I told him what I had done and how I felt about it, and he was very understanding and he forgave me. Looking back on this two years later, I realize that we were (and are still in) a very loving relationship because forgiving someone after betraying them is VERY hard to do, but he was willing to do that for me and work on keeping our relationship strong."


1. Admit to yourself you have hurt another person. As painful as it is, you have to come to the place where you admit you're guilty, no excuses. Asking someone to forgive you requires a broken heart and a willingness to repair the damage you have done. It's not just saying, Forgive me if you think I happened to have done something wrong. You need to understand the amount of pain you have caused, and accept responsibility for it.

2. Talk to God. Ask him to forgive you for what you've done and to give you the strength to talk to the person you've hurt. God is very interested in you seeking forgiveness. Jesus said something very powerful about the urgency and the need to seek forgiveness: If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. (Matthew 5:24)

3. Ask for forgiveness from the person you hurt. If you are going to meet in person, you may want to write down your apology, and then practice saying it out loud until you are completely comfortable with it. What to say? Be honest. Don't apologize just to make an uncomfortable situation go away. You need to clearly explain what you are sorry for, without making any excuses. You might need to find a third party to help you, especially if it's difficult to talk face to face. You may need a peacemaker who can help bring some objectivity to the conversation. Don't expect him or her to immediately jump up with joy (or forgiveness) the moment you apologize.

4. Let the other person respond to you without getting defensive. You may need to give the other person time to sort out their feelings. Don't expect him or her to immediately jump up with joy (or forgiveness) the moment you apologize. It is important, if possible, to make sure the person you have hurt says Yes, I do forgive you. In so doing, they are saying, I'm not going to keep bringing it up or hold what you've done over your head. Sometimes when you seek forgiveness, a lot of people will then turn around and seek forgiveness from you.

Even if the other person refuses to forgive you, you've done your part to clear your conscience and show you want to change. In time, they may come around and forgive you. The best way for you to respond is to show yourself as continually trustworthy, avoiding opportunities to slip back into the wrongful behavior. But you did the right thing by seeking forgiveness, and your new attitude and actions will be the best way to prove you are truly sorry for what happened.

The best way for you to respond is to show yourself as continually trustworthy, avoiding opportunities to slip back into the wrongful behavior.

Let's go back to Vicki, who concludes this topic very well: "When I look back on how thankful and lucky I was to be with someone as thoughtful and caring and understanding as my boyfriend, who had the strength to look beyond my stupid mistake, it makes it easier to give other people a second chance if they hurt me because I want people to feel how I felt, because it feels wonderful to be forgiven."

For more help with forgiveness, read my blog on what happens when you don't forgive. 

Check out this free eBook from TheHopeLine on Forgiveness!

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45 comments on “How To Ask for Forgiveness - 4 Steps”

  1. I have a best friend and I love her but she has a boyfriend that lives in a different state after moving 2 years ago and they’re still together and I’m happy for her. I tried avoiding to admit I love her but she ended up figuring out. It was all good we were we still talking to each other but about 2 days ago we got in a little arguement and now she won’t talk to me I tried apologizing and keep talking to her but she says she’s not mad but she clearly is and I don’t know what to do.

  2. Due to my best friend not telling me to knock it off with cute knicknames or poems i wrote to him (while married) even though we never had any hardcore talks about if we even were fancying one another, but it just felt right. He never pushed me away and when I thought I was bothering him through text or email, I always asked him. He doesn't want to hear this. For the past 3 weeks I have been blocked from email, FB, cell... any technology; rejected! Or he could be just ignoring me, i wouldn't really be able to tell because even when we were friends and things went well, he would ignore me. So i can't tell but ... I know for a fact for FB he blocked me. That's easy to tell enough. Right away I apologized. I hurt his feelings, insulted his wife, insulted his integrity, his intelligence. Most likely everything to push him further and further. I haven't figured it out, why I would do this. We had mutual friends. His good friend is my husband. I know I know, what a freaking mess. There are just two regrets. The two probably why he is not speaking to me or texting or emailing me. One I insulted sort of his wife. She told me months ago when she was angry at him how she felt he was in love with his sister and how his sister well the same... i thought that was distasteful and disgusting.. and she should never have told me that because when i was mad at him for settling with her just because they have been together a long time but he is not in love with her because he has hinted i thought i would be the honest friend, but that was i know a NO no. Friends don't do that. I took for granted our friendship. He allowed me to say anything in the beginning without saying anything to me. I am sure he lost respect for me. My other regret is me emailing him my feelings for him. Yes he liked me, so I thought he wanted to hear me say I wanted to have - - - with him. I can't believe i typed that to him. He def. wigged out and it all exploded. I am broken. Broken because that is not who i am as a person. I am 39. I have never acted this way and never done anything like this before. I am married and his best friend is my husband. I know its so freaking insane and I don't deserve anything but he led me on many times that I know is on him, but he doesn't want to hear it. How is it I can forgive him for leading me on and not stopping me from "texting him late nights" and when I asked him if I was inappropriate by writing him a friendship poem, he said no, and if I was ever nosey or too involved. HE said no ... So why is this all on me 100%.
    He flirted with me. I am not the type of girl to flirt with a man, but subtly I did because of him. I thought he wanted to hear me say what he couldn't say. I was wrong. But 3 weeks of just blocking me. I know he must not want to hear from me and it is the only way not to hear from me is to block me. Is this normal for a man to do? Should he be just confronting me?

    1. I really hope you stopped worrying about him. About him blocking you and not talking to you. This is a good thing he did so because you both are MARRIED to other people. You should probably be looking for a separation or divorce from your husband. If you are truly in love with your husband as you should be no amount of flirting from another man will pull your eyes away from him. That's love. Instead of worrying about this man who is blocking you (for good reason) you should really be worrying about your relationship with your husband and where you stand now. This man may been flirting with you but he probably didn't think you would take it that way. So stop thinking about him and start worrying about your family. It's done. Leave him alone.

  3. I hurt my best friends. And now it's be over 5 years, and I still feel the pain of not being able to talk to them. I wasn't ready to talk. I had nothing to say. I was afraid to say what I wanted to say. I was very sheltered, growing up. And now. I realize, that I've hurt them, and that's why my life is going astray. You can't build on misfortune.
    Any help would be much appreciated.

  4. I hurt my mom's feelings really bad and when I apologized to her it made things worse. I'm trying to keep it together but it is killing me that I can't get her to forgive me. I've wrote her letters of apologies and said it in person. Idk what else to do. Please help me to figure it out.

    1. I hope you've figured it out.. But I would say... take a step back... and try to breathe... and figure out why you hurt her. It's important to know what your reasons were. and then you can talk to her from a perspective of self knowledge.
      Hope that helps.

    2. its been hard for me to apologize to my mother for what i have done to her i have stolen money from her and its really hard for me to apologize im afraid of what she is going to think of me im afraid she wont look at me the same

  5. I have a bestfriend, he's a gay. He's very mad at me right now, as in super mad. How to approach him if he's still boiling out of anger? I know I did a mistake, super big mistake. How to approach him if he's currently mad?? Please? I really need it right now. He even texted me and told me that he don't want to see me. Please. Thanks!!

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