Living in a sinful and broken world means our relationships are also going to be impacted by our fallen nature. How do you move on knowing you have messed up and hurt the ones you care about? Maybe you find it easy to give other people grace and forgiveness when they hurt you, but struggle to accept this same grace when you are the one in need. How do you accept the hurt you've caused and truly move forward?
The first step to finding healing is confessing your sins to God. It’s important to remember that when you sin the person with whom you most need to make it right is God. The Bible says “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just” (Psalm 51:4). When we confess our sins to God we become aware of the condition of our heart and seek God’s help in changes that we need to make. This conversation will have such an important role in our repentance, because the Bible says sorrow towards our sin causes change, and change is what we need most.
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
When you have hurt someone you can’t change what you did, take back what you said, or rewind and start again. The damage is done, the wound is made, and healing will need to take place. When you realize your sin against someone, come to them humbly, apologize for the hurt you've caused, express your remorse, ask if there is any way you can make it right, and ask for forgiveness. Don’t offer excuses, but accept full responsibility.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God'' (Matthew 5:23-24).
Seeking the healing of the relationship is important. Jesus called for us to prioritize it even ahead of worship. We leave the altar to go first to make things right with one another.
Recognize that there may be consequences from the hurt you caused. If you have broken someone's trust, it will have to be earned again. Earning trust will take time, and depending on the relationship it might take you being willing to be more openly transparent with them until they trust you again. There is also a chance that they might need time away from you to heal, as difficult as this rejection will feel, try to humbly respect their need for space and take a step back. Pray that God would heal their pain and give grace so they will have a desire to mend the relationship. Not every relationship will find healing, but God can bring dead relationships back to life.
In my experience when I am heavy with the guilt of the hurt I have caused, Satan tries to convince me that my mistakes are too big for God’s grace, but this is a lie. I have found that arming myself with God’s truth is the only way to undo this lie. When I am struggling with guilt and have already confessed my sin to God and the one I have sinned against, I have to speak God’s word to myself. One of my favorite verses that I tell myself is “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). How amazing! Whatever sin and hurt I have caused has been removed from me as far as possible from the God of the universe. There might be consequences from my sin, but God has poured His forgiveness over me and I can move forward one day at a time in this beautiful freedom. Reminding yourself of God’s truth of his amazing forgiveness and grace is the only way to let go of the weight and burden we have put on ourselves.
The truth that everyone sins seems like an obvious concept, but I find that, when I am covered in the weight of guilt over the hurt I have caused others, I often feel like I am the only person on the planet who has hurt someone or at least I'm the worst one. Paul tells us that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:23-24). When you are wrestling with guilt it’s easy to forget we live in a broken and messy world full of sinners who are constantly hurting one another. There is a great need for forgiveness for one another on a daily basis. Reminding myself that I have also needed to forgive others who have hurt me, and that I am not alone in my struggle of sin helps me to move forward in the glorious forgiveness I have been also given by such a merciful God. I can't be perfect; only Jesus accomplished that! He recognizes our human frailty and loves us anyway.
You can’t change what you did, said, or how you hurt someone else, but you can change yourself. God equips us with fruit of the Spirit and guides us in transforming our lives. Take the mistake you made as an opportunity to do better in the future. Over the years I have started to take notice of common pitfalls I seem to fall into, and how these pitfalls have caused hurt to others. Taking the time to talk to God about my pitfalls, confessing the deeper heart issue that is often at play, and making a plan to make every effort to not make the same mistake again helps bring me healing and growth. I remind myself I am on a journey and God is using every time I mess up and fall on my face to build me back up with His strength and transform me into someone who can give Him even more glory.
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Deb Koster