Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13
How do you “fess up” well after you have truly messed up?
Just saying, “I’m sorry” by itself is not enough, it doesn’t let the offended person know what is going on inside your heart or give them an opportunity to reconcile your relationship. It’s merely a statement: two words which do not require much effort on the part of the speaker or any acceptance on the part of the hearer.
Our hearts are always the key to our thoughts, words and deeds so that is where we always need to start. If we don’t believe that we have done wrong, our verbal confession, no matter how “perfect” will be inauthentic and probably cause more hurt.
Our first task in seeking to confess well is to understand that any wrongdoing against another person is firstly and foremostly an offence against God. Our wrongdoing shows what we think about God and his authority over us. It is the outward evidence that we believe that we can do what we want, when we want to and that God does not have the right or authority to tell us what to do.
We need to ask God to help us understand that this sinful attitude is dishonouring to him and unloving to others and to confess to him first.
Once we understand our offence against God and want to confess to another person that our behaviour in a particular situation has been sinful we can use the following 7 A’s of Confession guide to help us make a complete and thorough confession.
1. Address everybody
Ensure that we not only confess to those who are directly affected by our behaviour, but also to those who were indirectly impacted by what we did.
2. Avoid if, but and maybe
Don’t try to explain or excuse your behaviour.
3. Admit specifically
Clearly say what was sinful in your heart and your actions.
4. Acknowledge the hurt
Verbally acknowledge the painful and negative emotions that were caused by your behaviour. And if you don’t know, ask the person how they were affected?
5. Accept the consequences
Let the other person know that you are willing to accept whatever consequences come as a result of your behaviour.
6. Alter your behaviour
State how you will change your attitudes and actions.
7. Ask for forgiveness
End your confession with the question, “Will you forgive me?” and allow the person hearing it to process your apology and take the time to respond as they need.
Making a confession to another person is a humbling task. But God has promised that the best way to seek peace in our relationships is to confess our wrongs and seek forgiveness, which he has promised he will freely grant.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9