Updated: Jul 6, 2021
Seek Forgiveness. The destruction that anger brings with it will require us to seek forgiveness from those we have devastated with our sin of anger. We most definitely sin against God and as we have seen, confession and repentance are necessary in restoring our dependence upon Him and having our joy renewed. We will need to go one step further and ask forgiveness from those we have offended.
Asking forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do, yet it can be one of the most powerful things that we can do to glorify God and begin the work of restoring relationships. Saying, "I am sorry" is not the same as asking for forgiveness. Being sorry is open-ended and can be sorrow for the other person being offended at our behavior, it can be sorrow for being caught or called out for our behavior, it can be sorrow because of the consequences, it can be sorrow that we have to admit we had some part, etc. Being sorry is not admitting sin and it does not require us to own our actions. Asking forgiveness requires us to own our sin and the damage that it has done.
I have seen this difficulty of asking forgiveness in real time. Over the years I have engaged with small children who have done wrong to teachers or fellow students. I have always attempted to get the child to own their actions and then ask forgiveness for the specific action against the specific person. They almost always will say "sorry" instead, even after instruction to "ask forgiveness." I would pause and talk through the process again and then instruct them to ask for forgiveness. The humility to acknowledge the specific behavior is always apparent. Asking forgiveness is difficult.
The words of forgiveness are not natural to anger. Welch states it this way, "Anger shows contempt. You are better than they. You are smarter, more righteous - you are above and they are below. Anger tears down. It kills relationships. In contrast, asking forgiveness is anger's opposite. It shows humility. Your sins are worse. You see that you can be blind to your own wrongness and tendency to want control. But you aim to be below rather than above. Forgiveness builds up. It heals relationships."
Welch goes on to give some practical guides for asking forgiveness of another that we have offended. 1) Be specific. What is the offense we committed. 2) Get to the heart. What were we seeking? What was our desire? How did this desire oppose God and go against the other person? 3) Give our plan for repentance. How are we seeking to change? How are we inviting the offended party to participate in helping us to see our anger? What is God revealing to us? 4) Ask forgiveness. This is more than stating how we feel or how we think they might feel, but it is specifically stating what was done and asking forgiveness for our sin against them. "Will you forgive me for _________?" This is the beginning of reconciliation and restoration, not the culmination. There is more work to be done. 5) Keep the conversation going. Invite the person to respond. Listen to their response, don't react, don't blame shift or blame share, and ask God to have the humility to receive and honestly consider what they are saying. 6) Act only in dependence upon God. We cannot do this on our own with effective results. We must rely upon God and His Spirit at work in us. We must approach the whole process and the ongoing work in prayer.
Is there someone we need to ask for forgiveness?