5 Steps to Reconciliation

When Forgiveness Needs to be More Than an Apology

There are times saying or hearing “I’m Sorry” isn’t enough. Whether we were the one wronged, or the one who did wrong, some offenses demand more of a deeper  level of forgiveness. It requires reconciliation.

The Seven Words

The seven words  “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” are important  in every relationship. But it is absolutely necessary for a healthy marriage.

First, a sign of maturity is to admit “I was wrong.”  What if your words or actions weren’t meant to hurt the other? Say my husband expresses how I’ve hurt him by something I said or did.

It may seem insignificant or trivial to me, but if he is hurt by what I did, then I am wrong.

I am not responsible for how trivial I think the “offense” is.  I am responsible that something I did or said offended Dennis. To be one with him, I must ask for forgiveness.

Second, asking “will you forgive me?” requires an answer. What if the hurt is so deep you don’t receive an answer?

When Saying “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough 

In relationships other than marriage,  you are not responsible how your apology is received. You are obedient to obey Christ’s command to ask for forgiveness. You’ve done what you know you were to do.  The results are not your responsibility.

For further clarity, read What to Do when an Apology Never Comes. 

True forgiveness goes beyond simply forgiving someone for their behavior and the wrong they did. Forgiveness involves forgiving someone for all of the hurt and pain they have caused, as well as the effects of those hurts in your life. ~Love After Marriage (Forgiveness Tool)

Your marriage cannot be a healthy one when authentic forgiveness isn’t asked for or received.

What if you’ve hurt your spouse so deeply, she needs a deeper level of forgiveness?

When we  counsel couples who need  this, we use the following steps from Nothing Hidden Ministries to help them toward reconciliation.

Steps to Reconciliation

  1. This is what I did wrong or this is what I did that hurt you.
  2. This is the pain that I believe I put you through because of what I did.

Ask for feedback:

  • Did I identify and understand the pain you went through?
  • Is there something else that I missed that would be good for me to know?
  1. This is how I feel about putting you through that pain.
  2. It is my sincere desire, as best as I can, to change this behavior and not bring this pain into your life again.
  3. Look at the other person and ask them, “Can you forgive me for this pain I have put you through or this wrong I have done to you?”

This exercise is effective only if you are sincere and choose to change. Don’t use this as a magic formula to get you out of the doghouse—thinking it will be the trick to give you sexual intimacy privileges again.

If you go through this with empty words and do not follow through with sincerity and a diligence to change, you will only succeed in disappointing your spouse (or the other person) again.

If the words and actions are without meaning, you betray his/her trust in you.

Your Children Need This Too

None of us are perfect parents. Most of us were raised by parents who were hurt or broken by their own parents. No matter how careful we are to avoid inflicting emotional wounds onto our children, sometimes our Adamic nature trumps our intention to be a loving, godly parent.

I wish I had been a better mom to my now grown children. Today I am more healed and free from the baggage I brought into my marriage and parenting.

If I’d been as healed then as I am now, I would have been a much better mother. Thankfully, it is never too late to ask for forgiveness.

Hopefully you are attuned to your children well enough to see when they feel betrayed or hurt by you. This exercise is a good way to get to the root of your child’s hurt so it isn’t carried on into their adulthood.

Because you are not the perfect parent, you will blow it some days.  I encourage you to make it a regular practice to ask your child(ren) if you’ve hurt them.

Is there anything I have done or said that has not just hurt your feelings, but wounded them?

As your child tells you their hurt, follow the five steps to reconciliation.  But add one last step:

  1. Hold your child  in your arms and express your love–verbally.

When the words “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, take forgiveness to a deeper level by pursuing reconciliation.


Is there someone you need to address these 5 steps of reconciliation with?
If it is your spouse, set aside a date and time to reconcile using these 5 steps.  (And if you are the one needing to be on the receiving end of reconciliation, make time to speak with your spouse about this article.)
Parent, make a date with each of your children.  Ask them this question (and follow the 6 steps to their response):
  • Is there anything I have done or said that has not just hurt your feelings but wounded them? 

Photo by Patrick Hodskins on Unsplash

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