Have you ever asked for forgiveness in the following ways?
- I’m sorry, but…
This is probably the most common false apology. This is where we justify what we did, and like C. S. Lewis points out in his wonderful essay “On Forgiveness,” if what we did is justifiable, it doesn’t need forgiveness.
- I’m sorry you couldn’t handle what happened.
This is usually the sort of false apology we see in TV shows where someone is forced to apologize, so they are sorry someone was offended because that person is weak-minded or childish. It is not even remotely a true apology.
- I’m sorry I got caught.
This is a false apology of regret for the consequences of being caught, not for the act that was caught.
- I’m sorry you feel that way.
This one pretty much mocks the thoughts and feelings of the other person without any real repentance on our part. We are only sorry they just don’t get it because they are inferior in their way of thinking.
- I’m sorry, not sorry.
This one is usually a joke and is not taken seriously unless only the first part is said out loud, and the second part is shared under one’s breath or to a friend. It’s completely disrespectful and is, of course, not an apology.
- I’m sorry. I’ll do better.
This one may not seem obvious, but it often stems from a desire to justify oneself as a good person who just made a mistake. It may stem from a place of people-pleasing. With God, it means we are trying to justify ourselves through doing better works instead of trusting solely on His provision for forgiveness and relying on His Holy Spirit to be our strength.
- I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I have no excuse.
This is the only true plea for true forgiveness. We regret what we did. We ask for undeserved forgiveness. And we offer no excuse or justification. We rely solely on the mercy and grace of the individual and God.
Which one are you most prone to? I know this is mostly silly, but if we do tend toward some of these, it can open our eyes to faulty theology or ingenuine repentance.
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. (2 Cor. 7:10, NLT)
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3, NLT)
In every situation where we need forgiveness, where we feel guilt or regret, where we know we’ve done wrong, God’s desire is reconciliation and restoration. And it is all in His hands, and it is in the hands of the person we’ve wronged. We cannot absolve ourselves, no matter how many good deeds we do. We can try to make restitution when appropriate, but forgiveness from someone else is always out of our hands. Repentance is all we have in our hands when we’ve done wrong.
And when we’ve been wronged, we have the decision of whether we extend grace and mercy or not. God tells us clearly that our responsibility is to forgive. Our forgiveness from God depends on our willingness to forgive others.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT)
I don’t think I’m overstating reality when I say that in every situation, God’s plan and desire is reconciliation. The whole reason Jesus came and died for our sin was for us to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father.
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NLT)
Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation. (Proverbs 14:9, NLT)
I wrote a blog post about repentance on my old blog. It’s here if you’d like to read it.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!