The Power of an Apology

The pop band OneRepublic sings this line in a chorus; “It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.” The song tells the sad tale of a person who has been let down repeatedly by another – in fact too many times to forgive.

Is there really a threshold of no return on forgiveness? Or a limit to the grace we extend to each other?

All of us have been tempted to tell a colleague, team mate, parent or spouse that it’s simply too late to apologize. Many times it’s because what we offer each other, is not an apology.

An apology is the most powerful life changing action in the universe. Trouble is you’ve gotta mean what you say.

Check out these super practical principles I have found to help me out, more regularly than I care to admit. (I am indebted to the teaching of Sheri Wiedenhoefer from California.)

An Apology is not…

I am sorry “YOU…”

  1. You got bugged
  2. You don’t understand what I am talking about
  3. You caught me at a bad time
  4. You didn’t know I was a morning person

An Apology is…

  1. Acknowledging the fact of wrongdoing (ie. “I’m sorry I slammed the door” or “I’m sorry I said that.”)
  2. Taking full responsibility
  3. Expressing sincere sorrow and regret
  4. Promising to not re-commit the same offense again!!! (you demonstrate that you MEAN it!)

When I discovered an apology is a commitment to not re-offend, the lights went on. If I hurt my daughter with an outburst of anger, I commit to not offend her with that same phrase or in that same angry way again. If I follow through; she will learn to trust what I say. God will repair and deepen our relationship. Being imperfect I will likely offend her in different ways, but I will apologize for those offences and ask her forgiveness each time. You know something, it works.

Jesus says, “Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:4

When we’re serious, a true apology takes on on the supernatural power of the cross. A power Harry Potter only dreams of grasping. It’s a power that turns upside down every natural human tendency to fight or repay evil with more evil.

It’s a power enough to cause the boys of OneRepublic, and bands worldwide, to rewrite their tirade songs of unforgiveness into songs of redemption and restoration of relationship.

I’m not saying to apologize is easy. I’m saying it’s worth the effort.

 When was the last time you apologized, how did it go?



8 Responses to The Power of an Apology

  1. oh man i have messed up plenty of times… i think it’s sometimes easier for me to apologize than it is to forgive others. must bring that one before God and take a closer look together.

  2. What we consistently fail to recognize is that when one resists forgiveness and restoration, it brings upon more hurt, bitterness and anger. Jesus knew that the only way to bring complete restoration, forgiveness, shalom, was to show that He wasn’t going back with His word. It’s in the act of forgiving before being offended/hurt that we find our example. May we do the same.

  3. So interesting that I didn’t read this post until today. Just yesterday I was contemplating how the Bible doesn’t seem to talk about “apologizing” or just saying “I’m sorry.” It tells us to confess (acknowledge the offense as sin) and to repent (not do it again!). Which is what you just said. :)

    2 Cor 7:10 says “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” God was speaking to me about not wallowing in regret, guilt and shame and feeling sorry about what I’ve done but that I need to confess, receive His forgiveness and change my actions/thoughts or whatever (repent).
    And then MOVE ON!

    So yeah – I like what you said. :)

    • Thanks for commenting Melissa. “I’m sorry” is little more than an expression of regret. A good friend has a family rule to use the question “will you forgive me for…?” in its place. Much more biblical if you ask me.

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