Revised Aug. 20, 2008


Five Aspects of Genuine Apology



Read: Victim’s Account of Abuse

Read: Fundamentals of a Genuine Apology (separate article)

Read: Recommended book on Effects of Child Sexual Abuse (title to be supplied at a later date)

Read: Recommended book about Pedophilia (title to be supplied at a later date)


Expression of regret and acknowledgment of their hurt/harm/pain

I’m sorry that I …

 Regret and remorse focus on the past, a past that you cannot change. Regret focuses on what the Offender did or didn’t do and how it has affected the other person. It is confession of the bad deed. It focuses on the Offender’s behavior and expresses sympathy for the pain and suffering of other person. Carefully consider the effects your actions had on the hurt person. Regret should be a plain statement of total remorse. Having empathy for the hurt person is an extremely important part of an apology.

The Victim’s loss may have taken any number of forms. It may have been hurt, harm, disappointment, inconvenience, betrayal of trust, disrespect, loss of innocence, etc. The offended person wants some evidence that the Offender realizes how deeply he has hurt them. The Offender should restate all the areas in which he realizes that he hurt and caused pain to the Victim. The focus should be placed on the Offender’s misbehavior and how it negatively impacted the injured person. An apology should never be followed by “but” or “however,” or any other words that will devalue the apology.

For many people hearing the Offender empathize with their pain is what makes the apology sincere for them. Without acknowledging their pain and loss, many feel an apology is lacking.





I was wrong in that I…

For many individuals, the most important part of an apology is the Offender’s admission that their behavior was wrong. Mature adults have learned to take responsibility for their behavior, and central to this is the willingness to admit, “I was wrong.” An apology means taking responsibility for your actions and being willing to admit your failures.

It is very hard for some of us to admit we were wrong. Some rationalize and blame their actions on others. They may admit that what they did or said was not the best, and claim their behavior was provoked by the other person’s irresponsible actions. NEVER apologize and then blame the other person for causing your misbehavior. (Not: “I’m sorry, but she made me mad.”) No one made you do what you did, no matter how the other person behaved. There will not be any “BUTS” in a genuine apology. Blaming the other person makes the apology insincere and ineffective. Anytime the blame is shifted to the other person, you have moved from an apology to an attack, which never leads to reconciliation and forgiveness. Excuses nullify an apology entirely.

For many people, hearing the words, “I am wrong” is what makes the apology sincere for them. Some do not feel that an Offender has sincerely apologized unless he admits to doing wrong. “I’m sorry” is just not enough—the other person wants to know that the Offender realizes that what he did was wrong. It is critical that the Offender take responsibility for his wrong doing. He should frankly admit that he knowingly and willfully engaged in wrong conduct.

The Offender should frankly a dmit that he knowingly and willfully engaged in criminal conduct. He should plainly state that i n his/her position of a ______ (worker/minister, elder, Child of God) he has sinned against (1) God, (2) ____ (Victim’s name) (3) her family (4) the church and ministry (5) society/all mankind. It is critical for the Offender to take responsibility for his wrong doing.



1 John 1: 8-10 IF we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. IF we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.



I will not do this again…

True repentance is more than saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. How can I make this up to you?” Repentance begins with an expression of an intention and commitment to change. It is saying, “I will not do this again/any more.” The word “repentance” means to turn around or to change one’s mind. It can be illustrated by someone walking west and suddenly turning 180 degrees and walking east. In the context of an apology, it means the Offender recognizes what he has done is wrong, that his actions have hurt the Victim, and he chooses to change his behavior.

People who have been hurt want to know: Do you intend to change? Will this happen again? What changes will you make so that it will not happen again? Have you learned anything from this experience?

All true repentance begins in the heart with an expression of intent to change. A sincere apology must indicate a willingness and commitment not to repeat the offense.


 There must be a commitment to stand behind the words and a plan to implement changes. Plans do not need to be elaborate, but they do need to be specific.



What can I do to make things right?

New Webster’s Dictionary defines “restitution” as “the act of giving back to a rightful owner” or “a giving of something as an equivalent for what has been lost, damaged, etc.”

The American judicial system has a legal term called “reparative damages.” This concept is based on the innate human sense that when a wrong has been committed, it should be “paid for.” Convicted Offenders pay their debt to society with time served in prison. However, this does not repay the Victim. Offenders also need to pay their debt to the person they wronged. This is called “Reparative Damages.” The Bible mandates making things right with the Offended person BEFORE going to God with a trespass gift.

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; FIRST be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matt 5: 23-24

Offering restitution equalizes the balance of justice. When someone causes hurt or harm to a person and they lose something, it is the duty of the transgressor to offer to make up for the loss. It may require repayment or restoring of something taken—a damaged car, a stained garment, a lost book, stolen money or even a good name. In some cases, this is fairly easy to do; while in other situations, it may be very difficult. What works in one situation may not work in another. For instance, it’s much harder to pay reparative damages for the crimes of rape, murder or child molestation. How does one make restitution to the Victim or surviving family members?

While exact restitution is sometimes impossible, if you put your mind to it, you can come up with creative ideas on how some form of restitution can be made. In cases of emotional or physical abuse, you could donate money to organizations that work to help victims of abuse. Restitution is not a bribe, and it should not misconstrued as paying for forgiveness. It is not to be forced; and should be given freely, voluntarily. It is an essential requirement in order to be right with God. God made the laws, and obviously intends that restitution should be costly. Harming one of “these little ones” is no small sin. Forgiveness does not come cheap.

The Old Testament law dealt variously with offences requiring reparation. Ex. 22:1 addresses stolen goods already disposed of and required a 5 times restitution for oxen and 4 times for sheep. Stolen property not yet disposed of was repayable in double (Ex 22:4, 7). Gain by robbery, fraud or oppression that was confessed involved full repayment plus 1/5 th. of a man’s yearly income, or 20% (Lev. 6:2-5; Num 5:7).

In the New Testament, Zacchaeus apologized for his wrong behavior through the years and donated half his future goods to the poor, when the Jewish law required only a fifth (20%). (Luke 19:2-10) He volunteered to repay the higher penalty of Ex 22:1 rather than the lesser payment of Lev 6:5. Jesus saw in his actions evidence of repentance and conversion.

The New Testament gives no set standard or guideline for making restitution. “Owe no man anything.” (See Romans 13:8-14) The principles behind God’s ruling for restitution weren’t just return or repayment. Punitive damages were required also (4 times, 5 times, 2 times, etc.) That principle still stands. There is no New Testament command that indicates God has changed the principles for restitution. The principles of the Bible are the foundation of the laws of restitution in legal systems today.

For some, a willingness to do something to make up for the pain the Offender caused is evidence that will atone and make amends for the offense. For some, the act of making restitution is evidence that the Offender is earnest and sincere. If you are not sure what the offended person might consider proper restitution, ask.


Romans 13: 8-14 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. ( 9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ( 10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ( 11) And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. ( 12) The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. ( 13) Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. ( 14) But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”



Desire for Reconciliation & Restoration

Can you forgive me?

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar,
and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way;
FIRST be reconciled to thy brother,
come and offer thy gift.
Matt 5: 23-24

The need for forgiveness always begins with an offense. Forgiveness is a response to an injustice (a moral wrong). Moral failures are barriers in a relationship and can only be removed with an apology and forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness removes the barrier created by the offense.

Forgiveness is a gift. Forgiveness should be requested as a desire but should not be expected and never demanded. Forgiveness says, “I care about our relationship.” Asking for forgiveness is an admission of guilt. It shows that the Offender knows he deserves condemnation and/or punishment. Requesting forgiveness shows the Offender is willing to put the future of the relationship in the hands of the offended person; and is willing to humble himself and give the other person the upper hand.

Forgiveness is costly. If the offense is minor, forgiveness may be extended to you quickly. But if the offence is major and was repeated often, don’t expect to receive forgiveness immediately. The offended person may need to process painful memories in order to forgive you. It is not a small thing you are asking. They must be convinced of your sincerity and that could take some time. If your request to be forgiven is granted, you are a recipient of mercy, love and grace. In some circumstances, the request for forgiveness is beyond any human capacity, and requires heavenly intervention.

Verbally asking for forgiveness after expressing all or some of the other aspects of apology may be the key that opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. It may be the one ingredient the offended person wants to hear; it may be what convinces them that you are indeed sincere in your apology.


  • To your family, I would like to say this:
  • To your “significant others,” I would like to say this:
  • To the church, I would like to say this:
  • To God, I would like to say this:
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