True Apologies

“If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  – Luke 17:3-4


Some years ago, I needed to get things right with a friend I had wronged.  While I felt he had also wronged me, that wasn’t the issue.  I had wronged him … and needed to seek his forgiveness.  I needed to own my wrong actions, repent of them, and humbly apologize – easier said then done.
When I finally called this person, I said something to this effect, “I was very wrong in the way I handled things and responded to you when we worked together.  I did not support you like I should have done.  I am so sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

This man readily agreed that I had wronged him and forgave me … and our relationship was restored.


Did you know there was a part of me that wanted to say, “I’m so sorry for what I did … BUT your actions surely did not help the situation either.”  I so wanted to add a “but” and justify myself a little in my apology.  That’s what a “but” apology does.  It tries to add a little justification for our wrong behavior.

“I’m sorry I snapped at you, honey, BUT I’ve had a bad day” (i.e. it’s not really my fault).

“I’m sorry I talked bad about you to other people, BUT you provoked me” (i.e. it’s not really my fault, it’s your fault).

“I’m sorry I embarrassed you, BUT remember those times you did that to me?” (i.e. you deserved it).


1.   Be repentant.  Apologies mean nothing without genuine, heartfelt repentance.  If you simply mouth the words “I’m sorry” without truly being sorry, your apology is hollow and ineffectual.  God doesn’t forgive us because we say some magic “I’m sorry” words.  He forgives us when we are genuinely repentant.

2.   Be specific.  General apologies mean little to nothing.  Don’t say, “I’m sorry.”  Rather say, “I’m sorry that I did _____________ (whatever it was).”  Specific apologies own the wrong that was done and right the wrong that was done.

3.   Don’t add a “but.”  When you apologize, don’t try to justify your wrong behavior with a “BUT.”  You cannot control what other people say and do.  You can only control you.  And if you messed up, fess up and seek forgiveness, regardless of what you perceive the other person did to provoke your actions.

Good apologizers are humble, willing to take honest inventory of their lives and actions, and willing to do what is necessary to make things right with God and others.

Bad apologizers are filled with pride and an unwillingness to admit wrongdoing.  Their theme song is, “Sin in others I can see, but praise the Lord there’s none in me!”

What kind of an apologizer are you?


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