Have you ever apologized to someone and…The. Words. Just. Fell. Flat?
Sometimes we feel it keenly, that our apology doesn’t make things right.
We want our children to get along with others and make right the wrongs they do. We want them to be peacemakers, so we teach them: “Apologize to her!” “Say sorry to your brother. You owe him an apology.” “Tell your sister that you’re sorry.”
But our children get in the same conflicts again and again. We do too. We wonder, can we ever learn to get along? So many times people resent saying sorry or won’t accept an apology from someone else. We are often stingy with our forgiveness. Have you ever wondered why saying sorry, or apologizing comes up short sometimes? Or how we learn to repair broken relationships?
Apology. Think of this: the word origin is “a speech in one’s own defense.” We can’t restore harmony with others when we are more interested in being right, than being in right relationship.
Sorry. It describes our feelings, it means distressed, grieved, and full of sorrow. The Bible calls this a “contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Telling someone you’re sorry starts, and ends, with your feelings, which doesn’t necessarily make amends or bridge the gap between another heart and yours.
To make matters worse, being forced (by a well-meaning mother) to say something when it isn’t true (that you feel sorry when you really still feel angry) can harden your heart, rather than soften it.
God’s Word calls us to a higher standard, but do we even know what that looks like?
What is written on our hearts and what we crave for our children, our marriages, our friendships, and in the Body of Christ is not sorrow or apology, but reconciliation. This is God’s design for us, that we would live in reconciliation with Him and with others (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
And what is often missing in our feeble attempts to reconcile? Humility. Confession.
Confession. It means to speak or acknowledge the truth. In the Bible, it means to agree with God (Hebrew YADAH; Greek HOMOLOGEO). When we confess that He is Lord, we agree with Him, and in this we speak truth. When we confess our sins, we agree with God that we have missed the mark, and in this we speak truth.
To confess also means to praise Him, to lift Him up. As we exalt Him instead of ourselves, we are humbled. To be humble is to be like Jesus, Who was humble.
There is transforming power in humility.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).
Painful places can be made whole. In broken relationships, humility creates vulnerability and that increases intimacy, closeness. In our own broken hearts, humility invites deeper relationship with the Lord.
Confession makes no excuses, points no fingers. There is no: “because,” or “if you hadn’t,” or “I couldn’t help it,” or “you made me…”
Confession speaks truth about sin. We don’t lose our temper—we choose anger, malice, selfishness…pride. A fib or a misrepresentation isn’t a mistake, it’s a lie. That update, sharing that story…it is likely to be gossip. Comparison—that’s usually envy.
On the other hand, freedom is found with confession, because whether we praise God’s grace or admit our sin, the truth is on our lips. Tell me, how do you reconcile at your house? Is confession mandatory, or are you settling for apologies?