"True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive."
Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
All too often these days, we hear that a person has demanded an apology from another person. It happens on all sides of the political aisle, and in general, in all areas of our lives.
There is a question that has not been asked of this new fad of apology seekers.
What happens if the person who has the demand put on them is not truly sorry, but just gives an apology because one was demanded? Does that make the situation right? Does that truly make you feel better?
As with many things in today’s society, authentic apologies are rare. It is a character trait that seems to have been lost in this new and improved "enlightened" society we have created with the onset of political correctness. All too often, when we hear someone apologizing, it is not an apology for their actions, but instead, an apology that they were caught. The sincerity of their heart in the apology is missing.
When my children get into squabbles, I do not "demand" they apologize to the offended sibling. Nor do I tell them to tell someone they are sorry. Instead, I talk to them about their actions; I ask them questions about whether or not their actions were right or wrong; I ask them how they think the offended person feels about what happened; and then finally, I ask them how it makes them feel personally to know they were the cause of the other person’s feelings being hurt.
"A stiff apology is a second insult…The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt."
Gilbert K. Chesterton
I do not want empty words, when I am given an apology. If it is not felt from the heart, I would rather not have it. If it is a situation where the person is more sorry they got caught than they are their actions, an apology means absolutely nothing. I want to teach my children this concept. If you are not sorry for your actions, do not give the apology. Yes, there are still consequences for not being sorry. Proverbs 16:18 says it plainly:
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
An apology is an effort to "make things right."
The official Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of an apology is:
an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret
There is a qualifier right there in the definition. "…accompanied by an expression of regret."
In researching this article, I found an excellent website: Perfect Apology. From this website, on the "Regret and Remorse" section, it says:
We’ll begin here by describing important distinctions between mistakes and actions that elicit feelings of regret and those that expose stronger feelings of remorse.
Regret is a rational, intelligent and, on occasion, emotional reaction to some unexpected, unintended and often costly consequence of some event or action.
Remorse, on the other hand, takes on a bitter, deeper form that elicits much stronger personal and emotional reactions to personal guilt, societal shame, humiliation, resentment and often anger.
There is a noticeable difference in regret and remorse, however, they are both an emotional reaction. If there is no emotion- there is no sincerity. Without sincerity, an apology means nothing.
If you do not truly regret your actions, you should not apologize. Your pride and haughty spirit will bring you very painful consequences, but lying about being sorry for your actions just heaps more bad consequences on you. If you are not truly interested in making things right, but instead still believe that you are right, and you are simply seeking to appease the other person, your words mean nothing.
"It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and valuesin order to genuinely apologize."
There are great rewards for having a heart of humility, and acknowledging when you are wrong, and truly seeking to make things right with the person or people you have wronged.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16
There is healing with an apology from the heart- a true apology. It is a healing of the relationship and circumstances of the offense to begin with. In many situations, there are other situations that are healed as a result of an apology.
Oftentimes, those who demand an apology fail to take a look in their own backyard.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5
We all have faults. However, if we focus on the faults of others, demanding that they owe us an apology, we must then look at how we have wronged other people and apologize to them. It is wrong to demand something of someone when you are not willing to do the same for those you have offended.
The true test of character comes from your actions in the future. If you apologize for something, but continue to do the same thing, you have clearly shown your apology was just empty words.
"Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past."