Four Steps to Forgiveness
Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen discusses the "Four Steps to Forgiveness," for distinct actions to take when you seek someone's forgivness. Here's a recap:
Step 1: Admit Wrongdoing
It's not just about saying "I'm sorry." Getting someone to forgive you requires that they know you know what you did was wrong. You shouldn't have done it. All too often, someone says they're sorry but it's more that they're sorry that you're upset – not that they really regret what they did (which means it's more likely they'll do it again! See below). Admitting wrongdoing opens the dialogue that leads to healing.
Step 2: Apologize
Those magic words, "I'm really sorry," are both crucial and cathartic, especially when combined with the other steps. For most people "I apologize" just doesn't carry the same kind of punch.
Step 3: Make Amends
Do you really want the relationship to move forward in a positive direction? Offer to make amends. To do something to show you're serious about getting their forgiveness. You can come up with something on your own, but it's even better when you ask them what they'd like you to do. Some people might say, "nothing," but don't let them get by with it! Make them give you some task, large or small, to demonstrate your appreciation for their forgiveness. (Have some delightely wicked ideas? Some milder, but just as effective? Share your thoughts in our discussion group!)
Step 4: Not Do it Again
You've admitted what you did was wrong. You've apologized sincerely. You've even paid your price by making amends. You wouldn't want to lose all that work, would you? Hopefully not! But just to be clear: DON'T DO IT AGAIN! Whatever you did before, if you repeat the offense, you're not only stupid (sorry, but I have to call it as I see it), you probably don't deserve another chance. That old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me," comes into play here. Do you really think the other person would – or should – keep letting it happen to him or her? Really? If so, you need to consider…perhaps you weren't looking for forgiveness in the first place. Perhaps your motives were, let's say, less enlightened?