How can I come across as sincere in my apologies?


It seems that when I apologize to people, they refuse to accept. I understand that the majority of apologies come across as insincere. If this is the case, how can I be sincere in my apologies to people?


An apology is an expression of regret for having done something that should not be done. So a major way that an apology comes across as insincere is when there is no indication that there was regret. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (II Corinthians 7:10). Just in the last few days, there were articles about a man arrested for murder. People were up in arms more because the man was laughing, joking, and acting as if he had done nothing wrong than over the actual murder itself. "Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool" (Proverbs 10:23).

Along with this should be an acceptance of responsibility. Nothing is worse than someone saying, "I apologize if I did something wrong." That "if" makes all the difference in the world. It means the person doesn't think he did something wrong, but since others are upset he is covering his bases just in case. It isn't a sincere apology because there is no acceptance that what was done was wrong. Another way a person doesn't accept responsibility is when they excuse the wrong behavior. "Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, 'I was only joking!'" (Proverbs 26:18-19). Then there are the apologies that imply that the fault really lies with the other person, but the apologizer is going to be the big person and apologize anyway. Since there is no acceptance of responsibility, the apology is seen as insincere.

Because so many lie, people are skeptical of an apology given that benefits the apologizer. When an apology is offered only after consequences come and the one giving the apology wants the consequences removed, then people are left wondering about the motivation. Are they really sorry about doing wrong or are they only sorry that they had consequences? Which comes across as more sincere:

"I'm never going to speak to you again!"

"I'm sorry. I still want to be friends. Don't go away mad."

"I'm never going to speak to you again!"

"You're right, that was rude of me. I don't blame you for being mad at me. I'm sorry. I'll be more careful about what I say."

The second comes across as more sincere because the one apologizing isn't asking for benefits for his apology. This especially comes across badly when the wrong person is being apologized to. For example, a man commits adultery and his friend, hearing about it, cuts off contact because of it. If the man apologizes to the friend first, and not his wife, the apology will be seen as insincere because it appears all he wants is his friendship back.

Finally, a sincere apology is demonstrated by a change in behavior. "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:11). Actions speak louder than words. Often people offer the apology first and then might get around to changing how they behave. Ideally, the change should come first, but sometimes there isn't an opportunity to demonstrate a change. Yet when a person repeatedly gives an apology for something and there is no change shown after prior apologies, then present one will seem insincere because of the past.

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