When clearing my conscience, what attitudes should I have?
When you ask a person to forgive you, he will recognize how far you’ve come in developing the following attitudes. Jesus spoke of these attitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:3–12), stating that those who possess them are blessed. Each of these attitudes will contribute to your success in maintaining a good conscience.
1. Be Poor in Spirit
The term poor in spirit describes one who is bankrupt and must look beyond his resources for the provision of his daily needs. A beggar is not to be demanding and should be grateful for whatever is given to him. This type of attitude is particularly appropriate when confessing your sins to God or others.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
A softened heart can be one result of mourning. A hardened heart makes repentance impossible, because you cannot see the offense through the other person’s eyes. As the Holy Spirit softens your heart and opens your eyes to the significance of your sin, you’ll be moved to genuine repentance.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
3. Be Meek
Meekness comes as we surrender our personal rights to the Lord and fully submit to His control. When asking for forgiveness, yield to the Lord any rights that you may have in the matter, such as the right to a good reputation or the right to be appreciated. Your submission opens the door to the work God has to do both in your heart and in the offended person’s heart.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
4. Demonstrate Spiritual Hunger
To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to long for that which pleases God and righteously nourishes our souls. Hunger and thirst do not diminish with time. Instead, they become more intense. When we consume something, we develop an appetite for it.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
5. Be Merciful
One definition of the word mercy is “not getting the punishment we deserve.” Clearing the conscience involves asking for mercy. It is usually true, however, that those whom we have offended have also offended us. Therefore, we must show mercy to them. If we fail to show mercy to our offenders, God will not show mercy to us. (See Matthew 6:14–15 and 18:34–35.)
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
6. Have a Pure Heart
Purity of heart involves your motives for clearing your conscience. If your motive is simply to remove the pressure of guilt, the person you offended will probably react to you. Instead, your actions should be motivated by a sincere desire to deal with the root problem that caused the offense and to fully restore the person you offended.
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
7. Be a Peacemaker
A peacemaker helps bring resolution to conflicts. God calls every Christian to become like Him and join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. (See II Corinthians 5:17–19.) The effectiveness of a peacemaker is often determined by his attitudes and the effort he invests in preparing what to say and how to say it. A desire for peace and a prepared statement are both essential in an attempt to gain a good conscience.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
8. Be Willing to Suffer
Making restitution for losses can be a painful and costly part of clearing your conscience. This important step might require time, effort, and money. The person you have offended or others who have taken up his offense may misunderstand you. However, through this humbling process, God will make His grace abound toward you. (See James 4:6.)
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10–12).
This material was adapted from page 15 of the Basic Seminar Follow-Up Course.