Apologizing. Ugh! Most of us hate to have to do it. It’s hard to admit when we were wrong and even harder to ask someone to forgive us, especially if the other person was partly to blame. But apologizing is part of seeking humility, and humility is a character quality God holds in high esteem. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will exalt you.” Apologizing humbles us by reminding us that we are not perfect and we need forgiveness from God and from other people.
However, our ideas about apologizing might not be sufficient. Even adults can act like children whose mother just told them to “shake hands and say you’re sorry.” Many times simply saying “I’m sorry” is not a full apology because it does not take into account the level of wrong done. There are times when we accidentally bump into someone or say something we shouldn’t. Those little errors, done without evil intent, are easy to apologize for with an “I’m sorry.” But when we have truly wronged someone, that person needs us to validate the pain we caused. A real apology sounds something more like this: “I was wrong to ________. I know I hurt you and I am sorry that I did. Would you please forgive me? How can I make this right?”
King Saul gave us an example of an insufficient apology. He disobeyed a direct command from the Lord, and Samuel confronted him. Saul at first denied any wrongdoing but, when pressed, admitted he had sinned against God. Still, he blamed his wrongdoing on a desire to please the people (1 Samuel 15:24–26). He was sorry he got caught but not humble enough to truly admit his wrong. God was not impressed with Saul’s apology and removed the kingdom from him (verse 28).
When we know we have wronged God or someone else, God expects us to make it right. We make things right with God by repenting of that sin, confessing it to Him, and receiving His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). We make things right with others by apologizing—admitting our wrong, asking for forgiveness, and offering to make restitution (see the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8). When we have wronged someone else, we should do whatever we can to make it right. Being reconciled to an offended brother or sister should be a top priority (Matthew 5:23–24).
When someone confronts us about our sin, we must be humble enough to admit the truth, apologize, and ask forgiveness. If someone comes to us to apologize for something he or she did, then we must be gracious enough to extend forgiveness. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13; cf. Matthew 18:21–22).
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Part of being a peacemaker is readily admitting when we are wrong. Peacemakers forgive when they need to forgive and apologize when they offend someone else (Ephesians 4:32). As difficult as apologizing sometimes is, it helps us grow to be more like Jesus by humbling us and teaching us about grace.