Yes, by God’s grace, I have actually used this tool to apologize and boy is it painful. But anything I might do to make the apology less painful would have ruined it. However, afterwards I feel clean and restored in my relationship with God and usually get a decent restoration of the relationship I have harmed.
Anything I include in my apology that makes it hurt less will decrease the chance of RESTORING THE RELATIONSHIP or HEALING THE DAMAGE DONE TO THE OTHER.
Ponder the elements of the prodigal son’s planned apology to his faithful father. Luke 15:11
(One caveat, I need to do the apology with no expectations of ever receiving the response I desire in return. There is no point getting mad at them for not responding “properly”, after all, it took me long enough to go to God and do my part properly. Doing things God’s way is a reward in itself and oftentimes the only one who notices that I “finally got it right” is God. He rewards me with inner cleanliness and more open fellowship with him.)
Step 1.CONFESS MY ATTITUDE(this is the sin against God) : “God is convicting me of my bad attitude of ________. ”
2.BE SPECIFIC : “Which caused me to hurt you by _________________.”
(I must not water it down. The other person needs to know that, I know what I did and therefore I will be less likely to repeat the harm. There is no point saying “Sorry for whatever I did to make you pout.” or, “Sorry for what you made me do.” The other person will hear me say “I am so wonderful that I am willing to apologize for things too small for ordinary people to detect. You are so judgmental that you get upset over undetectable things.” Sounds more like an attack to me. The word SORRY does not make an apology.)
3.PUT MYSELF IN THEIR SHOES: “I can only guess, but you must have felt _____________ and I am sorry for the pain I caused you.”
(I must not imply that it wasn’t that big a deal after all and they are making a mountain out of a mole hill.”)
4. I MUST NOT PROMISE TO BE BETTER IN MY OWN STRENGTH: ” I know that in my own strength I would fail you again, but I want you to know that I am obtaining the following help and accountability to decrease the chance of hurting you or anyone else.” ” I am getting help because I need to and not just to have my consequences changed.”
(Saying, “I’ll be strong” would make any same person run screaming in the other direction or worse it could cause them to pretend to forgive me, but not actually reinvest in our relationship.)
5.OFFER TO MAKE AMENDS: “I know that I can’t make up for what I did but if I could make amends by _______________ I’d be so grateful.
(I need to remember the scriptures tell me to go overboard in making amends. If I stole, I need to pay back several fold.)
6.DON’T SUGGEST THAT THEY OWE ME THE FORGIVENESS I CRAVE: Instead I should say,“If I were you I’d be hesitant to take another chance on relationship with me, however I really value your friendship, so If you would forgive me I’d be so grateful.”
(Above all I must not say, “After all, you were the one to trigger me, or you are not so great yourself, or considering all that you owe me etc”.
7.DO SUGGEST A LOW RISK FIRST STEP IN REBUILDING THE RELATIONSHIP: “Maybe I could be one of your servants” said the prodigal son. “Maybe we could start small by_________. Then if that goes well and I prove responsible maybe we could move on to greater relationship.”
(Do not suggest that they should just drop all the consequences and the limits they have set and go back to business as usual.)
8.DON’T SETTLE FOR TOO EASY A FORGIVENESS: If they say, “forget it, it wasn’t anything, I screwed up too.” Reply with, “thank you for your forgiveness and humility, I know that wasn’t easy for you and I really do feel bad for what I did.” Then I need to proceed with amends making and relationship rebuilding.