Swallowing pride is difficult for anyone. God says pride is dangerous to keep around (Prov 16:18), and if left unchecked will keep us from heaven (cf. Luke 18:10-12). Christians need to struggle in being people of humility, always recognizing our place in God’s creation and esteeming others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3)
Problem is, there are times when it’s especially hard to be humble. When we’ve sinned, whether against God or man, asking forgiveness is one of the most difficult things we must do. Godly sorrow, which works repentance (2 Cor 7:10), is difficult to come by when our reputation and our pride are at stake. Admitting we’re wrong is just plain hard!
And pride is a gigantic boulder on the road to reconciliation. When relationships need to be mended, whether with God or men, we need to take heed how we try to mend. Listen to some potentially wrong ways to restore relationships:
“I’m sorry, but it wasn’t entirely my fault” — As soon as we recognize our faults, pride will begin rationalizing and making excuses. Friends, we need to realize that relationships are not healed when we attempt to shift blame to someone or something else. Adam tried to blame God and his wife for his sin (cf. Gen. 3:12), but ultimately he was held accountable for what he could control. Relationships cannot be properly mended unless we personally shoulder the responsibility for our sin, and don’t try to shift it to other people or circumstances.
“I’ve fallen into sin, and need forgiveness” — The Bible teaches individual accountability for sin (Rom 14:12). “I’ve fallen into sin” implies an uncontrollable circumstance when in fact, sin is a choice we make (cf. 1 Cor 10:13)! God expects us to say the same thing about our guilt that He does (cf. 1 John 1:8-10). If God says, “you have sinned!” My response in seeking forgiveness should be to say, “I have sinned” (Psalm 51:4).
“If I’ve sinned against you, I apologize” — Sometimes we know full well what sin we have committed, but this kind of apology is offered in an attempt to salvage our pride. Once again pride rears its ugly head as we admit the possibility of our sin, but not the actual fact. Friends, I believe we rob ourselves of richer, deeper relationships with and in the Lord because we sometimes fail to admit the reality of our wrongs! Sincere, Godly repentance seeks forgiveness for specific failures, not for vague possibilities of sin. How can we be sorrowful over something that might have occurred? And how can God or man forgive something that might have taken place?
The Bible says we are to, “confess our sins one to another” (James 5:16). While this passage is not advising us to “air our dirty laundry” to everyone, there are times when confession is commanded. If we have offended or wronged someone, we need to restore that relationship through properly confessing our misdeed and seeking forgiveness. Here is one Biblical way to confess sin to another:
“I have sinned in ________ (name specific sin), will you forgive me?” — Tremendous humility and courage are needed to make a statement such as this one, but the Bible says that true forgiveness and reconciliation are found in this kind of repentance. Our relationship with God and with men will be stronger when we exercise this kind of confession. May God help us to seek stronger and deeper relationships through admitting our wrongs! — John Baker