Thursday, May 22, 2008

All About Apologies, Part 2

So what makes for an effective apology? Experts suggest four elements: (1) an expression of remorse; (2) a statement accepting responsibility for the harm that was done; (3) assurance that the offense will not be repeated; and (4) an offer to make restitution.

Researchers have found that some kind of apology is better than no apology at all. In other words, an apology that includes at least one of the above elements is better than nothing. But researchers have also found that the effectiveness of apologies increases as each element is added in, with the greatest effectiveness of all associated with those apologies that include all four.

One reason why all four elements are so important is because of their connection to the concept of biblical repentance. Biblical repentance involves a change of mind (the original NT word literally means "to change one's mind"). When the word is used in a context of someone's attitude and behavior in relation to some harm he or she has caused or sin that's been committed, it's easy to see some correlation between effective apologies and effective repentance. Expressing remorse, taking responsibility, determination not to repeat the offense, and restitution all flow from a mind that has been changed in regard to nature of a particular behavior as sin (or as offending or harming) and the seriousness of one's involvement in that behavior.

All of this to say that a quick "Sorry!", or a simple "I apologize", or even a "please forgive me", usually will not be sufficient either for apologizing or for expressing repentance. The point here is not to slavishly insist on people making use of certain words or phrases when they apologize or repent. The idea is to make effective use of the tools of apology and repentance for the purpose God intended, which is to facilitate forgiveness, restoration of relationships, and the blessings of biblical same-mindedness as everyone goes forward.

Note: For more information on the process of biblical same-mindedness, check out "Where Do We Go From Here: The Path To Biblically Resolving Conflict" by Randal L. Gilmore. Available here.


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