7 Characteristics of a Real, Genuine, Sincere Apology

A real apology, which only comes from a person that is truly sorry, is a request for mercy and forgiveness. It is like the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), which cannot be artificially added on from the outside, but flows out from a pure heart. A real, genuine, sincere apology is a blessing. But, nothing is worse than a faint apology, a false apology, a fake apology, or a non-apology.

What is an apology?

a • pol • o • gy (noun)
A written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.

A real, genuine, sincere apology is more than just a confession of wrongdoing. It is really a request for mercy and forgiveness; therefore, it needs to do more than just confess. The 7 characteristics of a real, genuine, sincere apology are…

1) RECOGNITION and REALIZATION — Understanding that you have done something wrong and being able to accurately acknowledge what you did and why it was wrong. Call the wrong by name, don’t dilute it by referring to it indirectly with a euphemism. Nothing is worse than a faint apology, after a terrible wrong has been committed, which piously apologizes for some tiny little insignificant part of it or even something else that is unrelated. (Matthew 5:23)

2) RESPONSIBILITY — Taking ownership of the blame for the wrong by admitting that you did it. This also means that you are prepared to accept consequences even years later (Galatians 6:7). A fake apology or a non-apology will not accept the responsibility for doing the wrong, it will excuse itself based on circumstances or intent. Don’t be like Saul who pushed the blame onto others (1 Samuel 15:15); instead, consider Shimei’s apology…

Shimei, Gera’s son, bowed down in front of the king as he was going to cross the Jordan River. He pleaded with the king, “Don’t remember the crime I committed the day you left Jerusalem. Don’t hold it against me or even think about it, Your Majesty. I know I’ve sinned. Today I’ve come as the first of all the house of Joseph to meet you.” (Sin 2 Samuel 16:5-4; Apology 2 Samuel 19:18-20)

3) REGRET and REMORSE — These are synonyms of the word “apology.” A real, genuine, sincere apology has regret, which is “to feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about” the wrongdoing. A real, genuine, sincere apology has remorse, which is “moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds.” A fake apology is sorry for getting caught. A non-apology will not have regret or remorse for the wrong, but may have sympathy and concern for the wronged person without apologizing for the wrong. Sometimes this is hidden in the 2 related meanings of sorry: (1) feeling distress, esp. through sympathy with someone else’s misfortune, and (2) in a poor or pitiful state or condition. A non-apology may express sympathy for misfortune without accepting the blame.

4) WITHOUT RESERVATION — A real, genuine, sincere apology does not add a caveat or an excuse for the wrong. It does not add a reason or a cause for the wrong, which really pushes the blame onto the one who has been wronged. Consider the first 2 kings of Israel: both committed grievous sins, both covered up their sins, both were confronted by a faithful prophet, both apologized, but only one was accepted, the other was rejected. Please read these carefully and prayerfully…

Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the LORD’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the LORD.” But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the LORD’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:24-26)

Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the LORD by doing this, your child will die.” (2 Samuel 12:13-14)

A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with BathSheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just. (Psalm 51:1-4)

5) REPENTANCE and REVISION — Making a change to keep it from happening again. Don’t keep repeating the wrongdoing and repeating the apology. This makes it seem like you don’t understand the seriousness of the wrong and you aren’t really apologizing for the damage.

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)

6) RESTORATION and RESTITUTION — Attempting to make it right, like Zaccchaeus did when he realized the error of his ways (Luke 19:8). Some wrongs cause so much damage they cannot ever be fully restored, but a real, genuine, sincere apology will include a real, genuine, sincere effort to repair the damage.

…you are sinning and will be guilty. Return what you stole or seized, what you were supposed to take care of, the lost item you found, or whatever it was that you swore falsely about. Pay it back in full plus one-fifth more. Give it back to its owner on the day you bring your guilt offering. Then bring the LORD your guilt offering (Leviticus 6:1-7)

7) REVIVAL — You can live in victory! The exciting thing about a real, genuine, sincere Godly apology, is even though you have been guilty, you can clear yourself and be innocent after the apology. This doesn’t depend on the wronged accepting the apology. This doesn’t depend on the wronged forgiving the wrongdoer. This is the result of a clear conscience before God and man.

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11)

★) REST and RELIEF — When you have committed a wrong against another person, and you don’t make it right, your conscience will be hurt. Some cultures refer to this as damaging your own soul. When you have been wronged, and you don’t forgive, bitterness will build up. When you carry bitterness inside you, it’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets hurt. Neither of these is good for you. They can have physical consequences. The solution is rest and relief from apology and forgiveness.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. (1 Timothy 1:19)

Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people. (Acts 24:16)

ARE YOU READY TO APOLOGIZE? Please do not use this as a recipe for an apology. Please do not use this as a judgment of an apology. Please use this to examine yourself whether you are truly ready to make a Godly apology. A faint apology, a false apology, or a non-apology will just make things worse. Do not make any apology until you can make a real, genuine, sincere apology. But, don’t stay that way for long…

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism
will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.
(Proverbs 29:1)

What are worthless and wicked people like?
They are constant liars,
signaling their deceit with a wink of the eye,
a nudge of the foot, or the wiggle of fingers.
Their perverted hearts plot evil,
and they constantly stir up trouble.
But they will be destroyed suddenly,
broken in an instant beyond all hope of healing.
(Proverbs 6:12-15)

There are six things the LORD hates—
no, seven things he detests:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.
(Proverbs 6:16-19)

But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)

When someone apologizes to you, or even if they don’t, you need to forgive them. If this seems impossible, please read:

More information about apology on the web:

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One thought on “7 Characteristics of a Real, Genuine, Sincere Apology

  1. Do Lent Generously: Day 18 Apologise

    Apologising isn’t easy, so there are no easier options today. Bite the bullet and say what needs to be said. Choose the most appropriate time and method, and respect the fact that the person may not be able to forgive you straight away. The important thing is to take the first steps to put it right.

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