Raising kids. Keeping House. Choosing joy, every day.

Elements of a Sincere Apology

My last post recapped a Wall Street Journal article about insincere, ineffective apologies that people make. Today, I’ll  list the elements (according to Ms. Bernstein) of a comprehensive, hence effective, apology. Researchers agree that they include these eight elements:

  • Remorse- I’m deeply sorry.
  • Acceptance of responsibility- It was all my fault.
  • Admission of wrongdoing- I know I was wrong.
  • Acknowledgment of harm- I know I hurt you.
  • A promise to behave better- It will never happen again.
  • Request for forgiveness- Would you forgive me?
  • Offer of repair- What can I do to make this right?
  • Explanation- I was thinking this, but now I see I was wrong.

As Christians, we are to have a conscience “void of offense” toward God and others. When we wrong someone, either by word or action, we should not be able to rest until we make it right with that other person. Until we do, we cannot be right with God. Why? Because we have something on our conscience that we know is wrong, and yet, we are unwilling to make it right. We are too proud to make it right. The principle is that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

When I am unwilling to offer up a sincere apology to someone that I  have “wronged” I am minimizing my sin. It is not seeing it as God sees it.

God says “be ye kind one to another.” If I am unkind and then just shrug my shoulders and think “Oh, no big deal. They don’t seem like they’re mad at me so I’ll just pretend I never said it,” I am saying to God “I know you said _______, but it doesn’t apply to me. I  don’t care, so neither will you.”

When we fail to show remorse over our sin, it is not seeing God as He really is: holy, just, ready to avenge the oppressed. We think he is like we are: careless and callous about sin.

Read Psalm 50 for yourself, but these verses should especially give pause: 

19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;

you slander your own mother’s son.

21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

We need to see our sin the way God does.

I love this excerpt from Roy Hession’s book “We Would See Jesus.” (ch.4)

“So, in like manner, Jesus says from the Cross, “See here your own condition by the shame I had to undergo for you.”  If the moment the Holy One took our place and bore our sins He was condemned of the Father, and left derelict in the hour of His sufferings, what must our true condition be to occasion so severe an act of judgment! The Bible says He was made in “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom.8:3), which means that He was there as an effigy of us. But if the moment He became that effigy, He had to cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46), what must God see us to be? 

It is plain that God was not forsaking the Son as the Son. He was forsaking the Son as us, whose likeness He was wearing. What is done to an effigy is always regarded as done to the one it represents. That derelict figure suffering under the wrath of God is ourselves, at our best as well as at our worst. There for all to see is the naked truth about the whole lot of us, Christian and non-Christian alike. If I cannot read God’s estimate of man anywhere else, I can read it there. In very deed, truth, painful and humbling, has come by Jesus Christ, enough to shatter all our vain illusions about ourselves. ” (emphasis mine.)

When we see the truth of our sin as it really is, by what Christ had to endure for us, and by the wrath that God poured out on Christ because of our sin, it will make us quick to offer up a sincere apology to God and to man.