From the time we were little children, "I'm sorry" was supposed to make everything better. We said those words when we hurt someone's feelings and accepted them when someone hurt ours. Most of us have been taught to accept "I'm sorry" as the cure all when someone hurts us. It is considered to be the end of the matter.
Tragically, that is not always the case. "I'm sorry" isn't enough when your loved one lies to you or breaks your trust in another way. Any abused woman knows those two words are used as insincere manipulation. "I'm sorry" isn't enough when you have been beaten by your parent. "I'm sorry" isn't enough when your boyfriend or your husband is unfaithful in your relationship.
There are times "I'm sorry" isn't the end of the matter, it is the beginning. There are times "I'm sorry" just isn't enough.
In a counseling situation when one person says they are sorry, I ask them what that means.
- Are they sorry for what they did?
- Are they sorry they got caught?
- Are they sorry enough to repent?
- Are they sorry enough to change?
These are critically important questions because they get to the heart of the matter. Being "sorry" can be meaningless, any abused person can tell you that.
Does their sorrow bring conviction? Is there a recognition of wrongdoing on their part? Does the one who hurt you own and admit their sin against you? Have they been
cut deeply to the heart by the Spirit of God? Do they understand their sin is grievous to the Lord? If there is genuine sorrow there will be no further desire to participate in the offense.
This means the person will go to any lengths to avoid hurting you again in the same way. No personal cost will be too great for them, there will be a radical amputation of the actions.
"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is
better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into
hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the
fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is
better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into
hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. "If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is
better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes,
to be cast into hell." Mark
If the person who hurt you is unwilling to take the necessary steps (however drastic) to avoid hurting you again they are most likely not ready to forsake their sin, and they will repeat it. Pastor John MacArthur calls this unsanctified remorse and says their "sorrow" is comprised of feelings of regret, fear, and
even desperation. Their focus is on how
the sin or its exposure will affect them not you, and not on what is right and honorable before God.
Godly sorrow has as its first concern the honor
of God. It is other’s oriented and is produced by the Holy Spirit acting on the
conscience. When the conscience has been affected, I often see the person weep bitterly over what they have done. The person is affected in
the inner man, or the heart. This is critical because without heart involvement there will be no real change. The fruit might look different temporarily, but if the roots are unaffected the change will be temporary as it has been in the past.
When the heart is changed, the actions change because the whole of the person is changed! There will no longer be a desire to hurt or harm; in fact there will be a growing hatred for everything that leads to those sins in the first place! What was once loved and worshiped is now hated.
This is why "I'm sorry" isn't enough. Talk is cheap, but the price of heart change that leads to life change typically costs everything a person holds dear.