The Five Rs Needed Before Asking for Forgiveness

Todd Sorbo 
MDI Contributor

I have thought a lot about forgiveness in my life. 

I have thought about the people I have wronged, the people I have hurt intentionally or unintentionally. I have thought about where I haven’t forgiven myself. Maybe it’s because of my Christian upbringing and beliefs, I seek to understand how to forgive and how to accept the forgiveness offered by others. 

The God I believe in has certainly offered forgiveness and I have accepted it, though somewhere in my mind I still question if I deserve it.

Because of this questioning, I looked into the act of forgiveness and created an exercise for men’s team that would allow all the men in my circle to look closer at the act as it applies to them no matter their spiritual beliefs. I have used many sourced to formulate these ideas; most of these are not my own but are at the core of what I believe. 

So here we go.

First let me start with a quote I found somewhere that I thinks defines why forgiveness is important to each of us. “The only thing that stops a cycle of hurt and bitterness is forgiveness.”  I want to look at both sides of this. I want to look at the act of asking for forgiveness and our role in forgiving someone.

Marriam Webster defines “forgive:” To cease to feel resentment against (an offender): To pardon, to forgive one’s enemies.

No matter your goals, you may not be able to move forward or succeed until you forgive your loved ones, friends, yourself or even strangers who harmed and wronged you, whether deliberately or unintentionally.

When you feel forgiveness in your heart, it’s easier to be happy, productive, accomplished and be at peace with yourself.

Absolving and pardoning another is really less about other people and more about being true, kind and respectful of ourselves.

Likewise, humbly and remorsefully atoning for our wrongs and transgressions against others is a way to give ourselves the esteem and value we deserve.

When you do not forgive someone else or do not ask for the forgiveness for the wrongs you have committed this can:

  • Rob you of your power and strip you of your dignity.
  • Keep you trapped in anger, indignation and resentment.
  • Make you feel helpless, stuck and frustrated.
  • Harm you physically or emotionally.
  • Stop you from enjoying relationships.

On the other hand, being able to forgive can:

  • Free, heal, nurture and release you.
  • Fill you with lightness, compassion and good will.
  • Enable, empower and enliven you.
  • Bring you closer to God or goodness.
  • Refresh, reward and renew you.

For me, the act of asking for forgiveness is difficult. It’s hard for me to truly feel I have done my part in trying to mend any brokenness. This is not the simple “I’m sorry, honey, I forgot to take out the trash.” Those are commitment that you make and should hold high, but that is a different topic for a different time. This is about the pain you may have inflicted upon one of your fellow brothers or sisters that really cut deep.

I went to a Promise Keepers event quite a few years ago where forgiveness filled a good portion of the event.  These steps are what I remember from that experience. I believe that they apply to everyone no matter your beliefs or lack thereof.

Steps to Asking for Forgiveness

Accept RESPONSIBILITY – Identify and acknowledge that you wronged the person. “I was wrong.”

Express REGRET – Be remorseful and show your regret for wronging the person. You really must be sincere and mean it when you say, “I am sorry.”

Genuine REPENTANCE – Repent means “to turn away.” Express to the one you have wronged that you will not do this again. “I will do my best to not ever do this again.”

RECONCILE – express the desire to heal the relationship between you and the person you have wronged.  “I want to earn your respect / friendship back again.”  “I want to get back in honor with you.”

Make RESTITUTION – You may need to do something to make things right again. “What can I do to make it right?”

After all of this is complete, this would be the time you could ask for forgiveness. NOT BEFORE.

I believe these steps are all part of the act of forgiveness. These steps may not seem like they are all required, but I think they need to be done to truly be able to ask for and hopefully receive forgiveness.

So, Responsibility, Regret, Repentance, Reconcile, Restitution. These are the 5 R’s that are a path to asking for forgiveness.

Granting Forgiveness

Maybe a harder thing to do is granting forgiveness. I heard people say, “I will never forgive them for what they did!”  I know I’ve certainly thought that myself. But I believe this is an important aspect of forgiveness that is the other side of the coin. Here are some possible steps to granting someone forgiveness.

The five steps in GRANTING the gift of forgiveness:

  1. Acknowledge the anger and hurt caused by the clearly identified specific offenses. “I was really devastated when you cheated me.”
  2. Bar revenge and any thought of inflicting harm as repayment or punishment to the offender.
  3. Consider the offender’s perspective. Try to understand his/her attitude and behavior. Maybe consider what part “I” had in this offense that was inflicted upon you.
  4. Decide to accept the hurt without unloading it on the offender. Passing it back and forth magnifies it. (Now I know what you are thinking… What about clearing a list?  That may be appropriate in our circle of men but not necessarily out in the world as we know it.)
  5. Extend compassion and good will to the offender. That releases the offended from the offense. Accept the forgiveness offered.

This is something to practice in our men’s team circles so that the results that forgiveness can bring to each of us can be realized. 

One thing to note about what forgiveness is not:

Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciliation, it can be a gift that the other either accepts or rejects or does not even know about. It is in the heart of the forgiver. For reconciliation, two people are needed and then the relationship between them needs to be restored. For reconciliation, forgiveness is needed.

Forgiveness is not pardoning, for pardoning is a transaction, often a legal one, that releases the injuring person from the consequences of his or her injurious actions. In pardoning, the pardoner takes on or blots out the loss caused by the damaging situation.

Forgiveness is not condoning, for it does not excuse harmful behavior. It just deals with it.

Forgiveness is not forgetting, for deep hurts usually cannot be wiped out of one’s memory.

In closing, I want to acknowledge that in my circle of men that I meet with regularly, I often see men holding on to deep pain that needs to be released. Forgiveness is one avenue that can release you from that pain and allow you to move forward. And often it is the forgiveness of self that is needed. 

Try applying the steps of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness to yourself for something that only you know you are holding onto. My hope is that this may assist you in living a fuller and richer life … and allow you to continue the path to “being the man you have always wanted to be.”

3 thoughts on “The Five Rs Needed Before Asking for Forgiveness”

  1. thanks Sorbo, on some level I know this, however it’s a good reminder to allow being the man I always wanted to be.

  2. Hey Todd: My teams next zoom call is on forgiveness. “forgive:” To cease to feel resentment against (an offender): To pardon, to forgive one’s enemies. Iam proud to make what ever I resent right.

    I resent Covid 19, but if I make it right maybe it’s time I die to lower our impact on the earth. As we push further into the rain forrest to clear land to grow more feed for hamburgers nature is fighting back. Restitution…. Boyles

  3. Great Rules, particularly admitting we’ve been hurt, which is crucial. if I might add tw0 more ?

    1. Give the hurt back.
    This isn’t “getting back at”; it is being “for” (in favour of) “giving” (handing the hurt back to the person who hurt me).
    Here’s one way to do it. Find a private place; put your hands in front of your chest or stomach—wherever you can feel that hurt residing—and let your hands sweep it out of you toward the person who dumped it there. Picture it going inside them in a forceful river; or push it onto them with a big splash. Chose an image that works for you. Keep doing it until you feel emptied. (You may think you’ll feel foolish doing the exercise, and therefore avoid it. But it’s a powerful one and worthy of a momentary feeling discomfort.)

    2. I own my part in it.
    Imagine dazzling yourself with thoughts of getting rich, and handing over your money to thieves when they promise to make your dreams come true…then blame them when they make off with it. We are aware of our boss’s ego, and the inclination to take credit for another’s work, and we make no identification on the work that is ours. We know the bull-dog protectiveness of the parent down the street; the vindictive nature of a family member; and our friend’s tendency toward cutting remarks. We know all this, and yet are somehow surprised when the hurtful blow comes.
    People who forgive know they have a responsibility in creating the situation—perhaps only a small one—but small or big, they own it.

    Great piece pf writing! My thanks

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