We sometimes have needs that require us to ask someone for something. Making the “ask” for aid, assistance or advice isn’t easy for many folks. While there’re people whose first name should be “Ask,” because of the frequency and shamelessness of their requests, there’re many others for whom asking anyone for anything is absolutely excruciating.

There’s one kind of ask that’s hard for practically everybody — asking for forgiveness.

Think about the last time you realized that something you said, did or failed to do was wrong, hurtful, disrespectful or damaging to someone else. Maybe it was intentional. Usually it’s not.

What’s your normal response when you become aware of your mistakes? Is it easy or hard for you to ask forgiveness? Are you quick or slow in seeking it? Do you blame others and make excuses for yourself, or do you humbly accept responsibility for your failures and freely admit your shortcomings promptly?

Personal growth happens when we readily apologize. Relationships are restored and strengthened when we learn to sincerely say, “Please forgive me. I was wrong!”

How do we get better at asking for forgiveness? Here are 4 simple steps:

1. Reflect.

Think about the impact of your words, attitudes, actions and reactions on other people. Develop greater self-awareness.

Self-awareness is knowing things about yourself that help you understand how other people experience you. It’s something we’re all deficient in, and something that can make a huge, positive difference in the way we live. It only comes if we understand our deep need for it, genuinely desire it and actively seek it.

2. Overcome resistance.

Honest reflection about our relationships will likely reveal actions we’ve taken, words we’ve spoken and things we’ve neglected that have contributed to problems and pain for others.

The natural response when faced with faults is to defend and deflect responsibility. We’re all good at focusing the spotlight on other’s issues and failings while ignoring or excusing our own.

The human tendency is to stubbornly resist initiating reconciliation. We don’t want to be the first one to say “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” We entrench ourselves in a defensive emotional posture, reinforced by all the justifications we’ve created for the offenses that we feel. We passively, and bull-headily, wait for the other person to apologize first. This resistance creates a relational stand-off.

3. Act.

Resistance is overcome by action.

Asking for forgiveness is an action, not an emotion. If you wait until you “feel like” asking someone for forgiveness, you’ll likely be waiting a long time. Don’t fall into that trap. Choose to take the first step. Go ahead and make that big ask, “Would you please forgive me for ______________ ?”

4. Expect.

Great things happen when we’re quick to admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

What can we expect to happen when we proactively seek forgiveness?

  • Our character matures.
  • We learn something about the power and importance of humility.
  • We develop a deeper understanding of ourselves.
  • We’re better able to identify personal areas of needed growth and change.
  • Our relationship skills improve.

Not only does asking for forgiveness benefit us, it also helps and blesses others. It can lead to:

  • The rebuilding of trust.
  • The renewing of love.
  • The removal of tension, animosity and strife.
  • The reconciliation of broken friendships.

Who do you need to ask to forgive you? Decide right now that you’re going to take the brave step to say, “Please forgive me for _______________ . I was wrong.”

Don’t let your pride or procrastination stand in the way. Send the note, make the call, have the conversation. Sincerely and humbly apologize. You’ll become a bigger, better person when you do!

Dale O'Shields