The Art of an Apology

It seems that we have lost all concept of what it means to apologize in our society. In personal relationships as well as with public figures, we have apologies that are really non-apologies.

This picture depicts a note that seems to the be the playbook for many modern apologies.


There may be exceptions, but you can pretty well count an apology that includes the word “but” to be a non-apology. So what is an apology? I think would be helpful to think instead of a confession. That is what an apology should be. If we think along these lines, then the Bible gives us understanding on what is included in confession or in an apology.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

–1 John 1:9

When it comes to our relationship with God, confession is the key to forgiveness and cleansing. So what is confession? The word confession has a root word which means “to speak or say”. It has an added prefix which means “together or the same”. Placed together, confession means “to speak the same as.” That is, when we come to God for forgiveness, we speak the same as God does about our sin.

So what does God say about our sin? As you read through the Bible, it is clear that God says that sin is the responsibility of the one committing the sin and that it is despicable.

When we confess, we are not to attribute blame to our parents, our culture or our own foibles. Instead we accept full responsibility and declare it to be heinous. This is true whether we are confessint (or apologizing)  to God or to somebody on earth.

We should embrace gospel truth in our apology as well. We pray for grace from the one we have offended. Just remember that grace is not something that can be demanded. If I apologize to somebody that I have wronged, I cannot demand that they immediately trust me. That process is between them and the Lord.

A final touch on our apology should take into account what Jesus said to the woman when he forgave her adulteries.

…from now on sin no more.

–John 8:11b

Therefore a good apology might sound like this,

I have sinned against you and am sorry. I am hoping for God’s grace and for your’s as well. I will trust the Lord to strengthen me so that I do not sin against you again.

Would that not restore damaged relationships so much more than the non-apologies we hear everyday?