My unofficial and unscientific review of Google and Amazon.com reveals the following frequency and prevalence of book topics related to forgiveness:
1. How to forgive others
2. How to forgive yourself
562. How to genuinely seek forgiveness from those you have wronged.
Sure, there are a decent number of websites and even a few books that cover, however briefly, the subject of how to make a good apology. But there’s really so little good, Scripturally grounded material available on what to do when you’re the one who has truly messed up a relationship, and forgiveness and reconciliation are going to need to be an ongoing process when measured in either dog(house) years or human years.
That’s why I was so delighted to happen across Wisdomforlife’s Seven signs of true repentance. Consider these seven indicators that what you are offering is truly bone-deep repentance and not merely regret (we can deceive ourselves into mistaking the two, you know):
1. Accepts full responsibility for his/her actions (instead of saying, ”Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
2. Accepts accountability from others.
3. Does not continue in the behavior or anything associated with it.
4. Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.
5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.
6. Does not resent doubts about his/her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)
7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.
My own editorial note, culled from no small amount of personal experience: If you try to effect any of these seven points on your own strength, you will fail. Miserably. But take heart: God never misses a good repentance. He’ll be present, if you are.
And lest you find yourself resenting the person who asks to see these changes in you as an outward manifestation of the inward change you’re professing, consider these wise words from Wisdomforlife:
Of course, only God can read hearts — we must evaluate actions. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a).
I can recall leading a seminar for Peacemaker Ministries one time where a wife, during my presentation, asked me a question about sincerity and forgiveness and her husband, seated next to her, threw his hands in the air and bellowed, “OKAY, I’M SORRY!!!!!!” It was immediately apparent to all three hundred of us in the auditorium what might have prompted the woman to ask the question. Volume does not connote sincerity. Emotional intensity does not connote sincerity. Like Jesus says, keep your eye on the fruit. Fruit don’t lie.
And notice: The fruit of the Spirit can only be produced by the ___________ (go ahead–you fill in the blank). Repentance is either Spirit-led or it’s of the flesh. To the person you’ve wronged, the difference is readily discernible.