When Saying “I’m sorry” Is Selfish

Hmmm. Thought-provoking. 

Sometimes “I’m sorry” is a selfish thing to say.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? After all, repentance is a cornerstone of the Christian walk, right? Sadly, I can assure you that it is indeed quite possible to spout humble-sounding words of apology more in self-protection than in real repentance aimed at real reconciliation.

The basic dynamic of phony repentance works like this: I say I’m sorry in an effort to make the “offended” person feel better about me or to make me feel better about me. Whereas Scripture calls us to seek forgiveness for sins that have harmed others, self-serving apologies aim to deflect someone’s possible disappointment in us or to soothe our own inner discomfort.

Of course, I am not intending any of this when I say “I’m sorry!” When I call these apologies “phony,” I do not mean that I realized they are phony or had any idea that I was being self-serving. But so much of our sin is that way—we don’t even know we’re doing it. Just because we don’t know we’re doing it, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t causing harm.

Self-serving apologies do their damage by functioning as relational pre-emptive strikes. A friend apologizes all the time for things that don’t need an apology; she’s trying to defuse possible critiques before they can get to her. After going long again on a sermon, a pastor says “I’m sorry about the time”; he is trying to ward off his fear that his congregants are annoyed or might even mention the length of his message. A husband says “sorry I’m running slow”; he is trying to keep his wife from raising his pattern of making the family late getting out the door in the morning.

Other times the apology is not so much trying to avoid criticism as it is an attempt to win praise that will soothe the apologizer’s internal anxiety. Thus, an employee tacks on “I’m sorry if this isn’t what you wanted” when presenting a project to her boss, even though she has already poured too much time into meticulously perfecting it. The apology is trying to prod an affirming “no, no, this is great!” from her boss which will calm the inner murmur of her anxiety that she may have overlooked something.[1]

Read more: https://www.ccef.org/when-saying-im-sorry-is-selfish/?mc_cid=e68808b094&mc_eid=ad6fcd2051

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