How to Effectively Mend Any Damaged Relationship

How to Effectively Mend Any Damaged Relationship

Parts of this article originally appeared on the Faithlife blog.

While the world tells us vengeance can repay, Christians believe only forgiveness can heal deep relational wounds. Scripture tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16), seek reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24), and forgive (Ephesians 4:32).

But mending damaged relationships is hard. Asking for forgiveness is tough, and nobody actually likes to apologize.

Matthew L. Jacobson wrote, “when it comes to relationships these days, it seems just about everyone is packing around a lighter and a stick of dynamite” (source). From sibling rivalry and relationship breakups to bad business partnerships and religious conflict, we all have to practice the art of forgiveness at some point in our lives. As we continue living in the same world with one another, friction is bound to occur, and an apology will be required.

While a heartfelt apology can mend even the most charred relational bridge, a poorly made apology often accomplishes the opposite. So, how should you go about asking for forgiveness? Don’t lose heart. Scripture gives a clear 3 step framework toward forgiveness. Use this Biblical framework whenever a damaged relationship needs mended—no matter how large the wound.

Express regret | “I’m sorry.”

If you’re in the wrong, say so. Don’t worry about properly assigning partial blame to anyone else. It’s your first move to give voice to your regret (James 5:16).

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. aThe prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. —James 5-16

These days, we’ve muddied the waters by overusing the word “sorry.” We say:

  • “I’m sorry someone else hurt your feelings.”
  • “I’m sorry you’re feeling under the weather.”
  • “I’m sorry your house needs to be fumigated.”

None of these instances warrant regret, but we use the word “sorry” to express solidarity with less-than-ideal circumstances. Most of the time, “I’m sorry about the circumstances,” just doesn’t cut it. Be honest. Be real. If you’re expressing regret, make sure you mean it!

Accept guilt | “I was wrong.”

In order to move on, accept guilt by stating that you were wrong. You need to take ownership of your fault and the truth has to be brought into the open.

Take Matthew 5:23-24 into consideration.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. —Matthew 5-23-24

If at any point you find yourself saying “but” or “that being said,” you should probably re-think your apology. It’s not the right time to set a record straight—accept your guilt and state that you were wrong.

Ask for forgiveness | “Will you forgive me?”

Lastly, request forgiveness. Scripture tells us to ask forgiveness from one another (Ephesians 4:32).

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. —Ephesians 4-32

Practically, asking for forgiveness places the offended party in control. It gives them the next move, and provides an opportunity for them to respond back and accept your apology.

What if your apology isn’t accepted?

If the offended party chooses not to own their contribution of the fault, that’s their business. Some people just need a little bit of time. Give the other party time to collect their thoughts and get their emotions under control.

The truth is that sometimes you just have to let it go. If you frequent the same circles as this person, treat them like a normal human being—love them like you’d like to be loved. Always hope for change. But, in the end, your conscience is clear because you’ve done what is biblical and right, and you can rest easy knowing that God will take care of the rest.

We want to hear from you. Is this how you’ve mended damaged relationships in the past? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Accept guilt | “I was wrong.” Do not forget restitution. With out restitution is is an empty apology.