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Posts tagged ‘false repentance’

How do you know when someone is truly sorry?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.

Hosea 7:14

As biblical counselors, sometimes it’s hard to discern if someone is truly repentant.

Tears are often the language of the heart, but when one is crying in the counseling office, it’s important to hear what the person’s heart is really saying.  The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  As Christian counselors, it is crucial that we learn to distinguish between the two especially when we are doing couples work.

Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self. The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were. Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.

·         I can’t believe I did such a thing.

·         Why is this happening to me?

·         Please forgive me. – Implying, please don’t make me suffer the  consequences of my sin.

·         Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)

·         I’m so sorry (sad).

·         I’m a horrible person.

·         I wish I were dead.

·         I hate myself.

Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5).  After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide.

It is natural that we feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain. However, it’s crucial that we not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind that leads to biblical repentance, especially when we are working with both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.

Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

Below are eight things I have found that demonstrate those fruits of genuine repentance.

·         Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.

·         Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).

·         Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.

·         Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.

·         Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.

·         Makes amends for damages.

·         Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.

·         Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long term.

In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not their sin that destroys most relationships. All couples experience sin. The destruction comes when we refuse to acknowledge it. It is our blindness to it and our unwillingness to humble ourselves to get help, be accountable, and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.

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“I’m Sorry. I Was Wrong. Please Forgive Me.”

SOURCE:  Dr. Robert Kellemen

I was recently the recipient of a humble, heart-felt apology where the person sincerely asked for forgiveness. How rare that is!

It made me think of various ways people “apologize” and how we might respond.

The “No Apology, Ever!” Person

Some people are like Fonzie from the old Happy Days TV series. Remember? He could never even mouth the words “I was wwww-r-o-n-g.”

Some folks are like that—they’re never in the wrong. You and others always are.

What is a biblical response in cases like this? What biblical principles of reconciliation do you follow with someone who is never willing to seek reconciliation? Are you and I ever guilty of this way of responding to our own sin?

The “If You Were Offended” Person

Then there’s the person who is a master at the apology that is not an apology at all. In fact, their apology really blames others.

“I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said.” Or, “I’m sorry if you were hurt by what you thought I did.”

The tenor, the tone, the words—they all communicate, “What I did wasn’t wrong. You’re just waaaay too sensitive.”

What is a biblical response in cases like this? What biblical principles of reconciliation do you follow with someone whose apology is really an accusation? Are you and I ever guilty of this way of responding to our own sin?

The “You Were Wrong and I Forgive You” Person

Somewhat the opposite of the previous “styles” is the person who brings up forgiveness only as a way of expressing alllll the ways you sinned against her or him. They use the words, “I forgive you.” However, the bulk of their words are about your wrong.

“I forgive you for the way you’ve always been so condescending and judgmental. I forgive you for the way you hurt me and offended me with your cruel and discouraging words. I forgive you for all the ways your self-centered, arrogant actions have hurt me and countless others…”

What is a biblical response in cases like this? What biblical principles of reconciliation do you follow with someone who seems less interested in reconciliation and more interested in humiliation? Are you and I ever guilty of this way of responding to our own sin?

The “I’m Sorry; I Apologize” Person

This “style” sure seems right about being wrong. The person says, “I’m sorry. I apologize.”

This is a great start. However, by itself it may not lead to true reconciliation. In this “style,” there are no specifics. There is no admission of wrong, guilt, or sin. And, there is no request for forgiveness—which is so central to moving toward reconciliation.

What is a biblical response in cases like this? What biblical principles of reconciliation do you follow with someone who apologizes but does not admit wrong or ask forgiveness? Are you and I ever guilty of this way of responding to our own sin?

The “I’m Sorry; I Was Wrong; Here Are My Excuses” Person

No one apologizes using these exact words. However, the sense is more of excusing behavior than accepting responsibility.

“I’m sorry. I was wrong. Everybody was jumping on me all day long. My parents were dysfunctional when I was growing up. I was having a bad day. The boss was a jerk. No one ever taught me how to relate or handle my emotions. I have this medical condition. Your words and actions were just too much for me or any normal person to handle. And…”

What is a biblical response in cases like this? What biblical principles of reconciliation do you follow with someone who blames others (including you) for their wrong? Are you and I ever guilty of this way of responding to our own sin?

The “I’m Sorry. I Was Wrong. Please Forgive Me” Person

This “style” is how I was recently approached. It’s the person who says, “I’m sorry. I was wrong for __________.” They fill in the blank with the specific way(s) they sinned against you. No excuses.

They continue. “I sinned. Would you please forgive me? How can I make this right? How can we reconcile and get our relationship right?” They move from admission to the offer of a conversation about reconciliation.

What is a biblical response in cases like this? What biblical principles of reconciliation do you follow with someone who is seeking biblical reconciliation? Are you and I ever this mature in responding to our own sin?

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