THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRUE APOLOGY
If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].
(1 John 1:9, Amplified Bible)
How often do we say “I’m sorry” and follow up with a “but” to justify our actions? Is this an authentic apology?
When we commit an offense against someone, we do further damage when a justification follows the apology. It’s as good as never saying “I’m sorry” in the first place. Let me give you an example:
You go and tell a lie on someone and it gets back to them. You are confronted by the person you lied on and you respond by saying, “I’m sorry, but I was upset with you.” How well would you receive an apology like that; one that is followed by a justification for the offense? (Think about the conversation that will take place later with another person: “Stacy asked my about that little story I told on her the other day. I apologized, but hmph, she shouldn’t have made me mad.” This is a good indication that the apology was not sincere.)
Let’s use our imagination: You are a married woman who suspects that your husband is having an affair. So, you go out and commit adultery, even though the Holy Spirit warned you not to make this mistake. Hours later, the Holy Spirit convicts you of your indiscretion. How do you think the Lord would receive the following apology?
“I’m sorry, Lord. But he cheated first.”
Is God going to excuse your actions because of what he did, or when you stand before Him, won’t He be more concerned with the sins that you committed? Does the Word not say in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God's] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord.” (Amplified Bible)?
When we offend someone, our apology should be sincere. But if you are still making excuses for your behavior, you have not truly come to realize your wrong and will surely do it again. An alcoholic who refuses to acknowledge that he has a problem with alcohol will surely drink again and get drunk. The first step in any treatment program is to verbally acknowledge that you have a problem. (It is a spiritual trap the enemy leads us to when we fail to acknowledge our error. This denial is a ticket to Repeat Alley.)
Why am I writing about this? I think it is a very important issue that we need to address whether in Church or in Corporate America. This truth could carry us all a very long way in successfully dealing with conflict and ongoing aggravations. We are always quick to advise someone to be the bigger person and forgive. And while that is good advice, we owe it to ourselves to recognize the importance of our responsibility to sincerely apologize when we have offended someone.
Just think of how it would be if everybody picked up this concept. How many “Postal” incidents would we not have to deal with? How many school shooting plots would be dismantled? Has it ever occurred to anyone that many of these instances could have been avoided if someone in authority operated according to this method of dealing with conflict? Have you wondered how that co-worker got to the degree of anger that drove him to arrive at work with enough fire power to eliminate the whole office? What if someone had intervened on his behalf and held the offender(s) responsible instead of looking to him to be the bigger person? What if someone intervened for those students who resorted to violence in order to stop the pain caused by teasing classmates? There is wisdom in recognizing the importance of a sincere apology and how much it assists in the healing process. Telling people to grow up is not always the Godly way of handling things. Let’s face it, growing up doesn’t happen just because you tell someone to. It is a process. In the process, we all need a little help.
I’ve been in many situations where someone offended me and where I offended someone else. One thing the Lord taught me through these experiences is the power of a sincere “I’m sorry” in the healing process of the one offended.
A few years ago, I had a friend that did something that really hurt me. For seven years, I had nothing to say to her. I know what you are thinking… aren’t we supposed to forgive? Yes, we are. But this article is dealing with the other side of the offense and that is what our responsibilities are as the offender.
While I agree that we are supposed to forgive whether others ask forgiveness or not, let me share this story in order to show you what I learned about the heart of God and why He said “IF” we confess, He is faithful and just…
In this situation, my friend (and I say my friend because we are closer now than we were before the hurt) would call me and I just had nothing to say to her. I was hurting and at that time in my life, I struggled with carrying on with someone who had hurt me and had taken no steps towards atonement. I figured that if you offend someone and you don’t acknowledge and apologize for it, you will more than likely do it again. And let’s face it, nobody likes getting hurt.
But one night my phone rang and it was her again. (Throughout the seven years, she never stopped calling me – I just didn’t have anything to say to her.) She opened the conversation something like this:
“When you did (blah, blah, blah) for me, I mistreated you. I did (blah, blah, blah) and I was wrong. You were a good friend to me and I didn’t treat you right. I am sorry that I hurt you and I’m sorry for what I did. I understand if you don’t want to forgive me, but I hope that you will.”
There was no justification added to her apology and she took full responsibility for what she did without asking for anything in return. At that very moment, the hurt, the anger, the animosity and all that goes with the results of an offense was gone. We resumed our friendship and began to grow in the Lord.
How far do you think this kind of apology took her with the Lord? Do we realize how important this is when it comes to taking Communion? What about when we pray about other things? Do you realize that it pleases God when we take responsibility for our actions and deal in truth when we come to Him and when we deal with each other?
I don’t get to talk to my friend as much as I used to but I still, and always will, consider her my best friend. I love her dearly.
NOTE: I was just as wrong in not forgiving her for seven years. I had to ask the Lord to forgive me for holding a grudge. I’m not trying to ignore the fact that we must be willing to forgive no matter what; I’m just emphasizing how important the other side of this is.
As the years have gone by, God began to show me how I’ve felt about others who have hurt me. I have loved ones who have done things that hurt, but though I still love them, the pain of the offense still remains to some degree. Some hurts I’ve learned to live with. This should speak to those things we did years ago and think that time should have emancipated us. So what was God showing me in all of this?
He was showing me that as much as we have come to understand the power of forgiveness, we must also embrace the power of a sincere apology.
It is necessary to confess when asking forgiveness and not bring in justification for our actions. While you can’t live your life based on what others are responsible for doing, you must live your life based on what you are responsible for doing. Let’s talk about confession and repentance with each other and how it compares to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Confession: You are aggravated about your wife getting on you about… whatever. Meanwhile, she’s spending money at an alarming rate and the pressure of trying to keep up has been slowly dissolving your desire for her.
Here comes Cindy. There goes the affair. Here you are before God and this is what you say to Him:
“Lord, I’m sorry for whatever I did. Will You forgive me?”
Is forgiveness in order? Think about it for a moment. Our God deals only in truth. Does this person not know what he did? Is he innocent because of the pressure, or did his wife’s spending make adultery okay?
Now if he went to God and said:
“Lord, I committed adultery. I know it was wrong. Please forgive me.”
When he prays for God to help him to restore his marriage, how much more success will he have with this confession, verses the confession filled with excuses for his wrong?
Would you agree that, when a person is willing to admit what they did in saying that they are sorry, they are more likely to not do it again, than a person who is not even willing to admit or acknowledge what they did, or in acknowledging they justify their actions? Think about it.
Confession releases your heart to a place of repentance. If you can’t even admit or acknowledge what you did without justifying it, how can you truly be sorry? Isn’t it a form of denial?
Admitting what you did and acknowledging it validates the victim’s hurt or offense. That is one way that the healing begins. It also tells that person that you are willing to do things differently in the future. It’s easier to trust somebody who has hurt you when they are open and honest than it is to trust somebody who is operating in denial. Like that business partner that starts an argument with you because you shouldn’t have crossed the line by looking at his emails, instead of admitting his wrong in committing unlawful business practices behind your back that will land the both of you in jail. If he won’t admit that he was wrong, will he tell the authorities that you had nothing to do with it; or will he let you go to jail with him?
Confession is a sign of Truth in operation. Truth and Faithfulness work hand in hand. That’s why He said He is faithful and just to forgive. Why faithful and just to forgive? If He allows us to come to Him in deceit, He denies Himself. It takes a faithful heart that is willing to operate in truth to confess without excuse. This heart understands what is just.
God requires truth on the inward parts. It would be compromising for Him to accept our dealing in falsehood. You can’t go to God looking sideways at your guilt.
Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart.
(Psalm 51:6, Amp.)
We make God this Great Forgiver that forgives no matter how we come to Him. But we cannot come to Him in deceit. He is holy. While He does not expect us to come to Him in perfection, He does require that we come to Him in truth.
Of course, there are those times when we may have offended someone without knowing it, or without it being our intent. So do we not apologize because it was not our intent? YES!
If someone says we offended them, we must legitimize their complaint even if it was not our intent. The fact of the matter is still that they need to be validated. How do you admit and acknowledge something that in your heart you didn’t do? Ascertain from the person what it is they feel you have done and respond something like this:
“I’m sorry that you were made to feel that way. It was not my intent to hurt you. But I apologize that I did. Will you please forgive me?”
Our goal is to do all that we can to keep each other whole and unbroken as much as we are able.
If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
(Romans 12:18, Amp.)
In my relationship with the Father, I have learned that He is so loving, and so merciful, and yes, so forgiving; and because I love and care so much for Him, I want to be honest in my confessions both with Him and with others. It is my desire to please Him and that does not come without faithfulness. I cannot be free in His Presence if I’m not open and honest with Him about whatever is going on in my life; that includes how I handle things with my fellow man. While it is okay sometimes to want to explain your side of the story, it is more important to acknowledge when we have done wrong. It doesn’t just release the person we have offended, it also releases us.
Settling for apologies without confession hurts the person who is apologizing; and as we have seen on the news, hurts others. That doesn’t mean that if they don’t confess that you should not forgive them. But it is important to know that when we don’t operate according to the Word of God, we will find ourselves circling that mountain over and over again. We should be as quick to get things right with our fellow man as we are with God. After all, in His eyes the two are the same.
But how do we get this word out? Begin talking about it with people who have offended you and to whom you have been an offense. Share this information with your friends. Pray about the scriptures and ask God to show you how to relay this message of truth. If you feel it is necessary, discuss it with a minister or an elder. When involved in an offense, have a minister or an elder sit in to help resolve the issue; not just for yourself, but for the offender/offended also.
Confession is good for the soul. Receiving true forgiveness can be tricky when truth is avoided in the asking. Think about it. Do we expect our children to be honest about taking the cookie from the cookie jar? Why wouldn’t our Heavenly Father expect the same?
Tracy J. Lott
Copyright © 5/1/2006 Tracy Justina Lott - All Rights Reserved