5 Steps to Redemption

Foreman had Ali up against the ropes, landing one body blow after another. It was October 30, 1974, and Foreman was the reigning heavyweight champion, known for his powerful punches. As the bell rang signifying the end of the round, Ali said, “Is that all you’ve got? They told me you hit hard.” Over the course of the next couple of rounds, Foreman attacked Ali, throwing a barrage of punches. What he didn’t realize was that this was Ali’s strategy. He would lean on the ropes, take Foreman’s punches, and counter with quick jabs. By the eighth round, Foreman was exhausted, and Ali saw his opportunity. A flurry of punches, including a left hook and right cross combination, sent big George Foreman to the canvas. It was the first boxing match he ever lost. But he also lost something even more demoralizing: his swagger.

Although he won several fights after Ali, Foreman had lost his mystique, and when he went down against Jimmy Young, he reached a breaking point. In the locker room after the fight, he was overheated, exhausted, and thought someone was talking to him. He passed out in what he described as a near-death experience. But when he awoke moments later, he felt clean. He felt clean of all his wrongs, his anger, and the pressure of being a champion boxer. Foreman felt free and redeemed for the first time in his life. His story is told in the movie Big George Foreman. We all do things we aren’t proud of or we live with the guilt and shame of failure. In these moments, if you want to redeem yourself you need to be broken down and rebuilt. Here are 5 steps to redemption.

We need to become aware of the error of our ways and the attitudes that lead to them.

1. Recognizing Our Wrongs

When George Foreman was on top, he was getting a lot of attention. It’s easy in the midst of success to become arrogant. You’re receiving accolades and you start believing your own press. Then we act selfishly with a blatant disregard for others. Foreman had several affairs, which ended his first marriage. These types of actions, and others that may be unintentional, cause hurt. If you want to redeem yourself you need to recognize not only the pain you cause but the depth of it. We need to become aware of the error of our ways and the attitudes that lead to them.

2. Seeking and Offering Forgiveness

When George Foreman realized the pain he caused, he went to his ex-wife and asked for her forgiveness. Relationships are the most important aspect of our lives, especially the ones with our family members. When we cause hurt, we need to do whatever we can to make those relationships right. That starts with expressing remorse and repentance when we mess up. Then, we seek forgiveness. But it doesn’t stop there. We also need to be willing to offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us. If we don’t, we will remain entangled in the pain and dysfunction of the situation and the person who caused it.

3. Changing Our Ways

There’s a proverb that says, “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so does a fool returneth to his folly.” The last thing we should desire to do is nurture the same type of attitudes and exhibit the exact behavior that led to our failure. Changing our ways takes commitment, consistent habits, and hard work, but it reveals the authenticity of our redemption. So if you want to redeem yourself, you need to show lasting change.

4. Growing Humility

This is the opposite of having an inflated sense of your own importance. A famous leader once said that if you want to gain your life, you’ll lose it. When our thoughts are consumed with ourselves—our position, ambitions, enjoyment, and desires—we become a slave to our own self-righteousness and self-glorification. It forces us to defend ourselves regardless of the cost and nurture bitterness when the accolades fall short of what we think we deserve. But humility, thinking of others more than we think of ourselves, frees us. We no longer have pressure to defend and elevate ourselves. It gives us clarity and perspective on our shortcomings and how to overcome them with grace.

5. Surrendering to a New Life

After George Foreman’s near-death experience, he quit boxing and felt called to be a preacher. He gave up a life of celebrity and huge paydays to preach, first on the street and then in a church he founded. People thought he was crazy, and he even endured ridicule. Being redeemed invites us to a new way of living. This can be difficult, feel uncomfortable, and often involve sacrifices we never previously made. There may even be the temptation to return to our old lives, not because they were good, but because they’re what we know. The final step to redemption is embracing our new lives. Our new lives may even have bigger challenges, but they’ll also be fuller.

Sound off: Are there other things to do if you want to redeem yourself?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think we need to do to change?”