|Nice graphic representation of|
an imperative sentence.
Repentance as an Alternative to Apology – The worst thing about apologizing is that it fails to address any real change in the damaging behavior. Apologies allow us to avoid repentance. But before any suggestion that we need to repent, we need to know what that word means.
Repentance is rare enough in its partial and limited forms. But where some emphasize the emotions of being “sorry” for one’s sins, others portray it as merely stopping a particular behavior, while too few acknowledge that there are accompanying attitudes that need to change as well. In short, repentance involves “all of the above,” along with recognizing and implementing the positive behavior that replaces and displaces the pattern of wrongs that apologies reinforce.
|Not a bad idea, especially if you have trouble imagining|
the kinds of things that lead to and enable your bad behavior.
In short, here’s what repentance sounds like: “This is what I did. This is how it has hurt you. This is how I propose to repair the damage I have done. And these are the steps I am taking to change my behavior, the attitudes that led to it, and the other ways it shows up even when I’m not harming you in this particular way.” Is this level of detail necessary for every wrong we’ve done? Yes. Otherwise it is too easy for us to ignore the realities that repentance requires.
Jesus said that murder not only has its root in anger, but anger, even when it results only in abusive words, damages so severely as to merit similar consequences. Each harmful action requires repentance, because no single instance of wrong occurs without a supporting cast of underlying attitudes and enabling behaviors. So also it is with the lust that not only may lead to adultery, but that is adultery. Likewise any other breach in our relationships stems from a lack of consideration for those relationships. When we do harm to another, it is because the causes and patterns supporting that harm have taken root within our souls. Therefore, if we choose to repent, then the causes deserve as much attention as the effects.
|For more on the "Non-Apology Apology," the "Apology as|
Reset-Button," and the "Rationalizing Apology,"
see Part One.
This is why there is still one more element we have to eliminate.
The Folly of False Forgiveness – There is one other factor to be considered in our decision to decline an apology. Too often, Christians especially seem intent on demanding forgiveness in return for an apology. “I said I’m sorry. Don’t be so judgmental. Jesus said you have to forgive me, or you’ll go to hell.” That theology may seem a little warped to some. But the underlying causes of our judgmental attitudes and actions fit the same pattern as above and must be as directly confronted. (e.g., Matthew 6:14-15 and Romans 2:1-4.)
Wouldn’t the wiser path, then, be to simply ignore the wrong, forget the pain, and move forward toward freedom in having forgiven? That is the advice many well-meaning Christians would give. And yet, it requires the pretense that we can “move forward” as though “nothing ever happened.” Practically speaking, that is dangerous. Scripturally speaking, it is unsupportable, even when there is repentance.
|God built our brains so that we learn from experience.|
Forgiveness is a decision, based on knowledge.
There is no forgetting some of what has been done.
Even when someone claims to be truly repenting, forgiveness involves great risk, and should be undertaken only by those who trust Christ for their protection and provision. Showing mercy is always costly. Yet Jesus does admonish us that when someone comes to us, even seven times in one day, and says that they are repenting, we are to forgive them for what they have done in the past.
Still, forgiveness is not forgetfulness. The patterns of behavior that Jesus noted in the Scribes, Pharisees, Romans, crowds and others suggested that His hearers must constantly be aware of their probable responses and reactions. Whether refusing to cast “pearls before swine,” or to allow the crowds to make Him king by force, or even to let His own disciples thwart His mission by their insistence on turning Him away from danger, Jesus accepted that the attitudes and actions of others would eventually end His life, and yet forgave even those who stood by as He died at their hands.
|Had to include this one since it shows my repentance|
from intolerance for grammar and spelling errors.
So, we are free to forgive even the unrepentant, of course. But we need not do so ignorantly. Nor are we to do so on the basis of mere words, no matter how “sorry” someone may seem. And even where there is a claim of repentance, John the Baptist’s call to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” suggests that we would be wise to wait for a new pattern of behaviors to be well-established before choosing to entrust ourselves to the perpetrator in the future.
So, without apology, I recommend that you begin to decline apologies…and pursue repentance and forgiveness instead.
So, how would I recommend you respond to someone’s apology?