The Difficulty of Apologizing

Have you ever encountered someone who was unable to apologize? It is frustrating but you are not alone. Without getting too far into this article, let’s take a moment to go ahead and make ourselves uncomfortable. We have been that person before. If we are honest with ourselves, we can look back in our lives and find a moment in our lives where we were being stubborn. No amount of guilt was going to make us apologize! But! Maybe our refusal to apologize is not as egregious as we believe. I believe there are three ways to look at why we fail to apologize.

  1. We have no knowledge that an apology is required.
  2. We do not care about the person or relationship enough to make ourselves uncomfortable and vulnerable by admitting fault.
  3. We think that our apology will not make a difference.

We have all experienced this in our lives and it is frustrating, especially in the Lord’s church. Have you ever been approached by a third party telling you that you have sinned because you offended someone and you did not apologize to that person?

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother

In this example, we have three parties involved when it should only have two people involved. How was the person who is being charged with not apologizing for offending someone supposed to know that something happened if they were never approached to begin with? You may think that this example is silly, but this happens far too often. Especially to preachers about something that they have preached on. This kind of behavior is not good. Some people are extremely quick to label someone a sinner without the alleged “guilty” party being able to speak for themselves or give an answer. The amount of comfort that people have in remaining “anonymous” is troubling. If we are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, why are we hiding behind someone else to do our own bidding? Jesus makes this point abundantly clear in this context. If someone sins against you, YOU are to go to them and address this matter privately. It makes no logical sense to expect an apology from someone who has no idea that they have wronged you.

Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Our service to God will never justify our bad behavior towards others. Jesus is telling us that reconciliation with our brethren goes beyond our religious duties. People tend to view their strengths incorrectly. “If I never admit that I am wrong, that shows that I am strong! I have power! I am not weak like other people! They should be like me!”. They have mistaken the reality that they are weak. This is because they have a low self-worth for themselves. The moment that they admit fault, their entire world crumbles around them. What typically happens when facts are brought into the equation, they end up doubling down. They will begin to blame others, denying the cold-hard facts, and will often times begin to attack others.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

In dealing with these kinds of people, it does no good to “try to win the argument”. You will never win but we must find peace.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

The best thing to do in these instances is to remain calm. Lay out your point of view within the discussion and disengage from the discussion until it can become productive once again. When the conversation goes into the realm of people disputing facts, utilizing excuses, resorting to insults or petty remarks. The best thing to do is shake the dust off your feet until the other person is rational enough to have a conversation.

Much of this has to do with the reality that many of us are selfish. We will hold others to a particular standard, but we do not hold ourselves to that same standard. This is what the Pharisees did in their lives and their service to God. As disciples of Christ, we need to humble ourselves in every aspect of our lives. This includes having the ability to apologize to one another.

Coming up with excuses while apologizing is equally just as bad. Have you ever experienced this? “I am sorry for what I said but it was said in the heat of the moment.” The “but” automatically cancels out the apology. An apology will keep everything focused on our own actions, not the circumstances or the responses of others. By adding a “but” into our apologies, we are introducing a criticism or excuse. We need to own our behavior or actions. Sometimes the best apology is simply changed behavior. This is because every time we apologize for something, we end up doing the same thing repeatedly. This will cause others to realize that we are not as sincere as we claim to be. Will God accept our apologies if we always include a “but”?

“I’m sorry God but I have things to do, and I cannot miss my deadlines!”

Try this or any other excuse with God. God knows our hearts, He knows where we stand, and He will judge us accordingly.

Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits.

by Lee Elkins