In our throwaway society, it is often easier (and less expensive) to replace an item than to repair it. Sometimes, we approach stressed or broken relationships in the same way.
The biblical directive, of course, is to strive to repair relationships (Mt. 5:23-24; Lk. 12:58).
The words themselves are simple. The practice of confession, repentance, asking and granting forgiveness can be stated in plain, unadorned language:
I was wrong to . . . [name the offense].
I don’t want to do it again.
Will you forgive me?
Yes, I forgive you.
When restitution is appropriate (Lk. 19:8), another question can be added to the sequence:
How can I make it up to you?
In actual practice, voicing these words is a struggle. It is hard to acknowledge wrongdoing. It damages the persona we have cultivated. It is a blow to our pride. Our internal resistance to exposure is powerful (Jn. 3:19-21).
In place of straightforward confession, we may try to justify bad behavior. We make excuses, downplay the offense, offer an explanation, or blame someone else. In authentic confession, however, we rigorously adhere to the rule: no ifs, ands, buts, or maybes.
Hard as it is, the biblical way to repair relationships is by direct, prompt, straightforward confession.
When relationships are repaired, we are ready to pray, worship, and participate in the Lord’s Supper (Jas. 5:16; Mt. 5:23-24; 1 Cor. 11:27-32). By these repairs we break through to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).