Is Your Apology a Lie?


In many instances, individuals tend to offer apologies primarily as a means of addressing their own feelings of guilt and shame, rather than as a genuine effort to mend the emotional wounds inflicted upon the other party. Have you ever encountered a defensive apology and pondered, “This doesn’t seem genuinely helpful or in my best interest”?

A defensive apology often reflects a self-centered perspective, with the apologizer focused more on their own emotions and internal conflicts. It is an attempt to shield oneself from feelings of inadequacy, failure, or loneliness within the context of a marriage.

It’s worth noting that the choice of words matters in these situations. For some, the phrases “I apologize” or “Would you forgive me for…” hold more weight than a simple “I’m sorry.” These words are seen as carrying a deeper commitment to seeking forgiveness, a sentiment with biblical resonance.

But why is it so difficult to move towards repairing hurt done in the marriage? Here are a few reasons why this may happen:

  1. As previously mentioned, a self-focused approach to apologies, laden with defensiveness or self-pity, often springs from a desire to cater to internal needs or fears. This self-centric mindset hinders the ability to reach out to one’s spouse. On the contrary, adopting an others-focused attitude, considering their experience and the harm inflicted upon them, can pave the way for effective repair and restoration. The difference between a defensive apology and a self-pity apology is significant: the former begrudgingly acknowledges wrongdoing without sincerity, while the latter tends to manifest as self-deprecating statements, such as “I’m a terrible husband or wife, and I’ll never get it right.” Both types of apologies maintain a self-centric focus.
  2. Pride can pose a formidable barrier to offering a sincere apology. The belief that the other party does not deserve an apology or that it is a form of retaliation for past hurts can undermine the potential for reconciliation. Embracing humility and valuing others as more important than oneself, as encouraged by passages like I Peter 5:5 and Philippians 2:3-4, is essential for overcoming this obstacle.
  3. For individuals inclined to people-pleasing, an apology may serve as a means to swiftly restore peace rather than as a genuine effort to address the underlying hurt. In such cases, individuals may rush to apologize as the quickest way to regain a harmonious relationship, often bypassing the deeper work required to heal emotional wounds.

Seeking forgiveness, in its truest form, arises from a place of humility and contrition, as exemplified in Psalm 51:17. This psalm, authored by David in the wake of his affair with Bathsheba, underscores the acknowledgment that his sin was primarily against the Lord (vs. 4). It’s noteworthy that David’s focus on seeking forgiveness from those he had wronged is not explicitly mentioned in this context, although it is implied.

In the state of brokenness and humility before the divine, a natural inclination often emerges to seek forgiveness from those affected by one’s transgressions. It’s important to remember that true forgiveness aims at restoring the relationship, not merely fixing the problem at hand.

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