How to Ask for Forgiveness and Make Amends
When we make an amends, we ask for forgiveness for any harm that we have done and how to make restitution.
God, who is all loving, patient and kind, will in His wisdom forgive us if we repent sincerely.
However, God can only forgive us for the wrongs that we have committed against Him. He cannot forgive us for the pain or hurts that we have done to others. For that, we have to go to each person whom we may have hurt and beg him/her for forgiveness.
The story is told of a Jewish house painter who deeply regretted stealing from his clients by diluting the paint, but still charging full price. He poured out his heart on Yom Kippur hoping for Divine direction. A voice comes from Heaven and decrees, “Repaint, repaint … and thin no more!”
This joke shows how important it is to for forgiveness and make restitution.
The next part of the story is: how do we ask forgiveness for the wrongs we have done to others?
According to the dictionary, an apology is a statement that demonstrates remorse and acknowledges the pain that we have caused someone else. Apologizing to someone takes courage and is an exercise in humility.
An apology consists of 4 steps:
- Taking responsibility for our actions
- Making amends
- Committing to change by promising that we will not repeat that behavior.
Then, I came across this nice acronym of how to apologize: C.O.N.F.E.S.S.
C-Confess without excuse. Be specific about what you’re sorry for (“I’m sorry I forgot our anniversary.”). Do not offer any kind of excuse. Do not let the word but come out of your mouth.
O-Offer an apology that gets across the idea that you’re sorry, and that you don’t want to do it again. Be sincere and articulate.
N-Note the other person’s pain. Acknowledge that your actions were hurtful.
F-Forever value. Explain that you value your relationship, and you want to restore it more than you want to hang onto your pride.
E-Equalize. Offer retribution. Ask how you can make it up to the person.
S-Say “never again.” Promise that you won’t do it again (and mean it).
S-Seek forgiveness. Ask the other person directly, “Can you forgive me?”
When we ask someone for forgiveness, he or she is allowed to turn us down. Forgiveness sometimes needs to be earned. We are not entitled. The person will likely need to hear more than “I am sorry” from us. We need to act differently.
Recently at work I had the opportunity to ask a co-worker for forgiveness for something that I said to her which reflected negative character traits.
It was a very humbling experience.
When my co-worker, Ms. Jane Doe told me how upset she was with me, I was shocked. My initial response was denial. How could this be true?
So I went home very upset and really thought about it.
For days I prayed to God to grant me clarity to see the truth about the situation and not just focus on how wrong MS. JANE DOE was for what she said TO ME.
The problem was HER, not ME.
Throughout the next few days, whenever I thought about this incident, I prayed the Freedom from Bondage prayer.
God, I take this time to become quiet and pray for _____________. I pray for _____________ to have all that I wish for myself: good health, a loving family, protection over (his/her) loved ones, peaceful moments and the inner knowing that (he/she) is good and enough. I pray that you help me change my thinking about ___________, and become more grateful to (him/her) for coming into my life as a teacher, to help me grow closer to You, God, and thus enlarge my spiritual life.
Please help me to remember that:
“Just like me, __________ is seeking some happiness for (his/her) life.”
“Just like me, __________ is trying to avoid suffering in (his/her) life.”
“Just like me, __________ has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
“Just like me, __________ is seeking to fulfill (his/her) needs.”
“Just like me, __________ is learning about life.”
G-d, please bless _____________ with peace, good health, security and prosperity. G-d, bless ______________, change me.
After a few days, it dawned on me that there was a certain irony here. Ms. Jane Doe accused me of being the very same things that I was experiencing from her and others.
Then I also read in various books that the world is a mirror.
I would not see the negative qualities in others unless I had them myself.
So the next time I saw her, I knew that I needed to apologize.
I focused on my behavior and not hers.
I began the discussion by telling her the following: “I really thought about what you told me. At first I couldn’t understand. How you could say that about me? Then I realized — I feel like other people are treating me same way that you told me I am treating you and others. If indeed the world is a mirror that reflects our inner self to the world, then, what you said about me must be true. I am very sorry.”
I also thanked Ms. Jane Doe for bringing this to my attention, because it is obviously something that I need to be more mindful of and work on.
I actually got to the point where I could feel grateful for the discomfort of this incident and for Ms. Jane Doe giving me the opportunity to improve my character defects.
Now, my personal challenge is to continue to work on improving my character.
The world is a mirror. Forgiveness is a precious gift that we give to and receive from one another. When we ask for forgiveness from people we have hurt, the corollary action is we need to forgive others who have hurt us. These acts of forgiving and asking for forgiveness polish our souls and bring down God’s attributes of kindness and mercy into the world.
This experience also confirmed the power of prayer. When we seek God’s guidance, He speaks to us and He sends us what we need to grow closer to Him.
To all: please forgive me if I have done anything to harm you, just as I forgive anyone and everyone who has harmed me.