Practical Guide to Reconciliation in Relationship

Ian Butler, M.A.

The following is a step-by-step guide to promoting reconciliation between two parties.

Summary by:
Dr. Marcel Lanahan
One person seeking forgiveness of another while on bended knee

Practical Steps toward Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Based on the book: To Forgive is Human, Inner Varsity Press

A) Person hurt begins.

Initiate the forgiveness process, isolating to a single incident. Recall the event and describe what happened, step by step, as well as how it impacted you.

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements.

“I felt _______ when ________.”

"That surprised me.  It didn't seem like you.  That really hurt."

If needed, start again, recalling your feelings and describing them in more detail. Allow the other to empathize occasionally.

On the forgiver's part, avoid asking the question why?  The answers will come later.

B) Person who did the hurting responds.

  • Admit the wrong by name without excuse.
  • Apologize for the wrong by name, communicating remorse.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the pain and suffering caused. Include a description of observations.

“You felt _______ when ________.”

“I know this hurt you deeply because…”

  • Indicate that you value the person thus repairing the damage.
  • Restitution: "Is there anything else I can do to keep this from happening..."
  • Commit to trying to never hurt the other in this way again. (With areas of fidelity and vows, drop the word ‘trying.’)
  • Ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.
    The forgiver can answer: Yes, No or Wait (all can be appropriate).

Avoid the temptation to say your part, if you are the one asking for forgiveness.
It is wise to wait before going into the reasons and circumstances leading to the offense.

Two notes concerning forgiveness:

1. Forgiveness is a process fully begun by committing to Forgiving.  It can be helpful if this is concretized and sacramentalized (ie., writing out hurts and wrongs, and then burning it with the commitment to forgive).  Because we are hardwired to remember hurt, and it will come back the next time we encounter a trigger, sacramentalizing the process can be effective.

2. Forgiveness is different from hurt!  Don't doubt that you've forgiven because some hurt surfaces later.  You have forgiven if you've committed to it.  Dwelling and ruminating on the hurt, however, will keep you stuck in unforgiveness and bitterness.

Here is an article discussing judgment and unforgivness here.

Here is a step-by-step guide to forgiving someone.

Download a pdf of this reconciliation guide here.