12 Minutes


The sections in purple are intended for those who have a relationship with God.







      The Relational

      The Material 

      Forgiveness without Reconciliation



   For the OFFENDER

      Steps between you and God

      If the person you wronged will not talk with you alone.

      Steps between you and the person you wronged.

      Between man and God (Another approach.)
      Applying the above steps to reconciliation between man and God.

   For the OFFENDED (A Biblical look)



Dictionaries define reconciliation in similar ways.

  • to restore to friendship or harmony” (Meriam-Webster)
  • to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable” (Dictionary)
  • the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement” (Britannica)

The definition of reconciliation used for the process described below is different. Reconciliation as described here requires much more than “friendliness.” The definition, as discussed below is,

As much as possible a restoration of the relationship to the state it was before trust was broken.

The offender as discussed here is the one who has committed an act that in some manner hurt the offended.

Adult relationships are built on mutual trust. At times, an event or events result in broken trust. 


Offenders are at times confused about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. For example, they may have committed an offense, gone to the offended for forgiveness, and told they received it, but still felt like the relationship was different, that they were no longer trusted. They may not understand that just because the offended person has forgiven them, no longer holds the offense against them, and that the offended does not trust the offender. Restored trust in part or whole is a result of reconciliation, not forgiveness. Reconciliation requires both parties to participate; forgiveness only requires one. Forgiveness is part of reconciliation. Reconciliation requires forgiveness but forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation.


Meriam-Webster defines forgiveness as “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)

The two parts of forgiveness are relational and material.

Offenses can be relational or physical. Many times offenses include both. Consider theft. If someone you do not know steals from you, the offense is only physical. If someone you know attempts to steal from you, the offense is only relational. If they are successful and it is significant, it is both relational and physical. The offended can forgive the relational offense without forgiving the material offense. 

The Relational Forgiveness can be described as putting down the rod of revenge. The offended may wish to take revenge or to see the offender pay in some way for the emotional harm the offended has suffered. It has been said forgiveness is one of the most selfish things someone can do. Hopefully the word “selfish” gets the attention of anyone who has not forgiven someone. How can it be selfish? People who hold on to unforgiveness are holding on to thoughts and subsequently hard feelings about the offender. Those painful feelings do not hurt the offender, but rather continue to hurt the offended. Unforgiveness can be a heavy burden that takes mental and emotional energy away from the rest of the offended person’s life. The offended who forgives does what could be described as a selfish act, something that is good for themselves.  

The Material  If the offended has suffered a material loss that is significant to them, forgiving the loss is costly. The material loss can be called a debt. The offended has a choice of whether to forgive the debt or not.

A offender who has forgiven the relational, but not physical holds no hard feelings toward the offender. They would never take revenge. They wish no harm to come to the offender. At the same time, they expect repayment of the debt. That repayment may be part of the reconciliation process.

Example:  A child steals from his parents. The parents relationally forgive them. That means they no longer hold hard feelings about it. At the same time, they would like the child to repay the amount stolen.

Forgiveness without Reconciliation

Example:  An adult child living at home steals money from his parents and buys drugs. Trust is broken on two levels, theft and drug use. The parents may quickly forgive the theft, not press charges, and not expect repayment. However, they may not trust their son not to steal or to use drugs again. The relationship is not restored.  There is forgiveness but not reconciliation. 

Reconciliation requires a meeting of the minds of the parties. Many times the party that has offended wishes to say, "I'm sorry" and wants trust and relationship to be restored. Whereas for some offenses, that may be sufficient, more serious or repeated offenses typically require much more.


Reconciliation requires that trust is at least partially restored. Trust is at the core of relationships. If the offended party believes that the offense or offenses are likely to continue, then they do not trust the offender. The relationship is not restored. At times it is not restored if the offended party does not believe that the offender understands the impact of the offense.    

Using the above example, “I’m sorry” surely is not sufficient to restore a relationship. The parents know that the theft would not have happened if it were not for the drug use. They know that drug use is not normally the kind of behavior one stops easily. The restoration of the relationship requires trust, in this case, trust that their son will not use drugs again. Without believing that to be the case, the parents no longer trust their son not to steal from them. The son may be asked to live elsewhere. The son may feel like his parents have not forgiven him. After all, he reasons, if they had, why was he being asked to move out? He has mixed up forgiveness with trust. Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned.  In order to restore the relationship, he needs to convince his parents that he will not be using drugs in the future. How can he possibly prove to his parents that he has quit? Simply put, he can not do so. Nobody can prove what they will or will not do in the future. This is an example of why reconciliation at a human level is never perfect. What the son can do, is to go through the process below with his parents. He can find out from them what they expect/need for the relationship to be restored as much as possible. For example, the parents may tell him that for trust to be restored, they want him to stay at a recovery center for six months, then get a job and stay clean for another six months. They would then believe that their son had made a change, and they would believe that they could trust him again.




Steps between you and God (If you do not believe in God or that confessing to God is important, skip this.)

  1. Confess. Admit your wrongdoing. (I did ____ and it was wrong.) Any sin against another person is a sin against God. I John 1:9
  2. Pray for the other person to be able to forgive you. Their inability to forgive hurts them. They hold on to the "rod of revenge", and it reduces the quality of their lives. It is a sin not to forgive. One reason you pray is that this isn’t part of your reconciliation with them, i.e. to help them forgive you.
  3. Repent of the wrong. What is the attitude that led to your sin? This verse indicates that your repentance is needed.  So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. Luke 17:3

(Another approach here)

If the person you wronged will not talk with you alone.

There are times when the person whom you offended will not meet with you. These solutions may work.

  1. Find a mutual friend or trusted counselor to meet with both of you in person or on the phone and mediate.

  2. Find a mutual friend who will act as a go-between, to pass what is said between the two of you. Make sure they have your thoughts in writing or have them repeat your thoughts back to you to reduce any miscommunication.

  3. Put each step in writing, one offense at a time, and send or give them to the person you have wronged. It will take time for example as you will need to stop at 2.c. and wait for a response. Even though it is cumbersome, there are many benefits.

  • Having it written reduces miscommunication. There is a record. In the event that one of the parties forgets what was said, the written record can keep the event from being brought up again.

  • Emotions are greatly reduced. The following which can happen when in person, can be avoided. When you've wronged someone and confess that wrong to them, you have humbled yourself. They may have been badly hurt and instead of experiencing their pain, they may respond with anger. One or both of you may react emotionally in a manner that stifles the reconciliation process.

Steps between you and the person you wronged.

  1. Admit what you did and that it was wrong.
  2. Share how you believe what you did impacted the person you hurt   

      1. Their feelings (loss of trust, betrayal, etc.)
      1. Their physical life (loss of money, time, etc.)
      2. Ask if you missed anything
      3. Say in your own words what you heard them say.
      4. Ask if you got it right.
      1. Tell them that you are truly sorry for the feelings and losses they suffered as a result of your action or inaction.
      2. Explain what is different now than when you committed the offending act
      3. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make the situation right or better
  3. Ask for forgiveness
  4. Leave their response up to God. If they don’t forgive, that’s their sin; it’s not about you anymore even though it has to do with you. If they don’t trust you, give them time. Prove by your lifestyle that you are now trustworthy.

The above are steps that can result in a reconciled relationship. Even if the other person forgives you, it may take a long time for them to trust you, i.e. to reconcile with you.  Even if the two parties completely reconcile, things are never really reconciled.  To reconcile is to balance. A person can never take away the pain the other person suffered. Even if money was paid back or a broken item replaced, the emotional pain the person suffered still happened and can’t be fixed. This is part of our broken world brought about by man’s sin. 


Between man and God (Another approach.)

The reconciliation we have with God is superior in that Christ fixed it all with his death. He didn’t just make restitution.  He made things relationally right.  Reconciliation with God is not even presented in other religions because there is no "reconciler." This is a fundamental difference that sets Christianity apart. Without reconciliation, a restored relationship with God is impossible.

Applying the above steps to reconciliation between man and God.

1)    Admit what you did and that it was wrong. Jesus knows our sin is wrong.

2)     Share how you believe what you did impacted the person you hurt. Jesus became like a brother to us in every way so He understands the impact of sin.

a)   Their feelings (loss of trust, betrayal, etc.)

b)   Their physical life (loss of money, time, etc.)

3)   Ask if you missed anything.  Jesus misses nothing!

a)   Say in your own words, what you heard them say.

b)   Ask if you got it right.

c)     Tell them that you are truly sorry for the feeling and losses they suffered as a result of your action or inaction.

4)   Explain what is different now than when you committed the offending act. What's different with Jesus? He’s perfect.

5)   Ask if there’s anything you can do to make the situation right or better. Jesus died to not only make it better, but to make it right.

6)  Ask for forgiveness  Jesus had nothing to ask for forgiveness for. Rather in His final hours, he asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Rom 5:8

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Cor 5:18-20

"and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation–" Col 1:20-22

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,"  Ps 103:2-3

"as far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Ps 103:12

This is a very abbreviated look at reconciliation between man and God.  Dig deeper with Got Questions and Christianity Today


For the OFFENDED (A Biblical look)