Seven Steps for Authentic Confession

This guest post is from Jim Van Yperen.  Jim serves as the President of Metanoia Ministries, a ministry that specializes in restoring broken places in the church.  He is the author of Making Peace and is part of our faculty for the Arrow Leadership Program.  Enjoy this helpful post!

Your authenticity and credibility as a leader will not be where you succeed, but what you do when you fail. Every leader sins. Every leader fails. How you respond to sin and failure will reveal your character and what kind of leader you really are—one who leads people to truth in Jesus through humble confession, or one who leads people into deception through cover-up and blame.

Credibility is forged through responsibility. The pathway to transformation (for you and your ministry) goes through the door of confession.

Here are seven steps for making confession that is Christ-glorifying, character-forming and community-building:


  1. Be personal: Address the person(s) that you have sinned against by name and in person. Never use email. Always meet in person. “John, I want to ask forgiveness for how my attitude/ words/ behavior have sinned against you…”
  2. Be specific and succinct. Name the sin exactly, in plain, unambiguous words. Acknowledge that your sin violated an underlying ideal, belief, value or practice of your community. Say exactly what you did. Do not go into detail or provide a long description of the sin. “I committed the sin of gossip by talking to Mary about you. I have sinned against you and violated trust in our fellowship.”
  3. Be unconditional and comprehensive. Take full responsibility for your sin, regardless of what others have done. Confess all of the sin, not merely what is known. Recognize and act on the consequences of your sin. Never blame or accuse others, even if true.
  4. Humbly ask to be forgiven. Express genuine remorse for the specific social, emotional, physical and spiritual harm resulting from your sin. Recognize your guilt and humbly ask for forgiveness. “I realize that my sin has caused you and your family a lot of pain . . . that grieves me . . . I ask you to forgive me.”
  5. Commit to change. Seek out and make yourself accountable to people who can help you examine your character and change the thoughts, attitudes and actions that led to the sin in the first place. Ask for, or commit to seeking help so that you never do the sin again. “I’m going to AA, so that I stop drinking and never do this to you or anyone else again . . . ”
  6. Make appropriate restitution. State your desire, and take immediate steps, to make just and appropriate restitution for your sin and to restore trust. Ask the person offended what steps you could take to make restitution. “I am giving you $100.00 for you to buy a new ___________ to replace the one I broke. Will that cover your costs? What else can I do to make this right?”
  7. Seek full reconciliation. Take immediate steps to to be fully reconciled and restored in your relationship to the person(s) you sinned against. “I know you cannot trust me now, but I am committed to doing whatever I can to restore our friendship in the future . . .”

Now, look back at what you have written. Ask yourself: Is my confession personal? Specific? Unconditional? Humble? Committing to change? Offering restitution? Seeking full restoration?

Edit your confession to meet these guidelines then call the person(s) you have sinned against to arrange a time to meet when you can confess personally.

May God give you the humility and courage to do what is right.