Tim Challies had a great blog post about forgiveness. It was birthed out of an incident in his own life where he had to ask for forgiveness. I found it very helpful for me and as I work on it in my life, perhaps the Lord will let it become the norm in our faith family.
You can read the entire article here: http://www.challies.com/christian-living/lessons-in-forgiveness#more
Just Do It
Just apologize. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t let bitterness take root. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Don’t let pride sever your relationships. If there is anything that will keep you from apologizing, it is pride. Your pride will rebel against humbling yourself before God and before other people. Don’t trust your pride. Just apologize. If you’re anything like me, you won’t ever lack for opportunities to practice apologizing. As times goes on it may not get any easier or any less humbling, but it will become something you do sincerely and out of a desire to please God and to honor people created in his image.
Ask for Forgiveness
It is easy enough to say, “I’m sorry, ” but far more difficult to ask, “Do you forgive me?” Asking forgiveness allows both you and the offend party to understand that you are not merely seeking to salve your conscience by apologizing, but that you are seeking true reconciliation. Forgiveness is something that needs to be both given and received. Actually asking for forgiveness invites the person you have offended to extend forgiveness to you.
Don’t Rationalize Your Sin
I try to teach my children that an apology does not include the words but or if. We do not say, “I’m sorry if I offended you.” We do not say, “I’m sorry I did it, but if you hadn’t…” We apologize sincerely and from the heart (or we try, anyway). If we cannot apologize without rationalizing our own sin, we are not truly apologizing. It is a good discipline to examine your heart before attempting to make a true and sincere apology. Do not allow yourself to make an apology that is actually an attempt to rationalize the wrongs you’ve committed. Rather, apologize sincerely and apologize from the heart, not as an attempt to clear your own record but as a step of love and obedience.
Learn to Forgive
And finally, learn how to extend forgiveness. As difficult as I find it to be the one asking forgiveness, I often find it even more difficult and awkward to be on the giving end of forgiveness. You may well feel the same. Far too often, when someone apologizes to me, I am embarrassed and inadvertently excuse that person’s sin. “That’s okay! It didn’t bother me…” I may reply. But it is not okay; sin is never okay. Learn how to forgive!
The Lord has been gracious in helping me overcome sin, but plenty remains. I am still a committed sinner. And this makes me all the more grateful that God is more committed to forgiveness than I am to sin.