The Love-Based Apology

The four parts of the love-based apology are expressing (1) remorse and (2) repentance, taking (3) responsibility for the wrong and (4) making restitution.1 All four elements are important for healing and rebuilding trust.

  1. Remorse: Remorse shows love and soothes the pain with empathy, comfort, and compassion. This is very difficult to do because the natural tendency is to be preoccupied with our own emotional pain of embarrassment, shame, regret, loss or fear of the consequences. Sometimes we can be preoccupied with being angry at ourselves or with the ones who exposed us or even with the person we wronged because we blame them for “causing” us to behave this way. But when we care about their pain and the harm done to them, they feel validated and loved. It is important to them that you care more about them than yourself. It demonstrates that you realize that committing the sin was about harming them and not just failure to keep the law.Shame Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “I’m sorry. I feel so embarrassed. What an idiot I was. I feel so ashamed. I’m so mad at myself. I wonder what people are going to think of me.”Love Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “I am so sorry for the pain and damage I have caused you. It truly grieves my heart to see you suffering like this. I want to understand what you are going through.”

  2. Responsibility: This step is first when the sin was hidden, like in adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, gossip, slander, damaging property, lying, etc. Calling it wrong confirms that an injustice was done. Saying it is always wrong and never okay begins to remove the mistrust (fear and anxiety) and to rebuild trust (believing we are safe). Remember, it takes time.“When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed.” (Numbers 5:5-7; see also Leviticus 6:1-5, James 5:16; Psalms 32:5)“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)Shame Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    I guess it was wrong. But others have done it or done worse. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Honestly, it wouldn’t have happened if . . . It was really just a stupid mistake.”

    Love Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “I am so sorry that I sinned against you by­­­­­­­­­­­­­ ____________. I believe it was wrong and it is never okay under any circumstance.”

  3. Repent: We must show change over time for trust to be restored and for mistrust removed. Remember, it takes time for trust to be restored. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8; see also Luke 17:3-4)Shame Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “I’ll try to change, but it’s just the way I am. I hope you can accept me this way. I just can’t help myself. It’s a real struggle, but I’ll try.”Love Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “With God’s help, I will not do this again and I commit to do whatever is necessary for me to change.”
  4. Restitution: Embracing the consequences addresses the debt owed—justice—and shows love because it reveals understanding and helps to heal the pain.“They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged.” (Numbers 5:7)“If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)Shame Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “I hope you’re ok with just an apology and that you can just forgive and forget. I hope you aren’t going to make a big deal of this.”

    Love Based Statement Might Sound Like This
    “I accept and promise to pay for or do whatever is necessary in order to make things right between us. I want healing and trust to be restored between us.”

1 In my original material called “Getting Along in the Family of God” (printed in 1996), I had these four parts described as Care, Confess, Change, and Cost/Consequences. In 2008, I heard Gary Chapman speak from his book “The Five Languages of Apology” (printed in 2006), which had the same ideas using the four “R” words listed here. I found that I prefer them over the “C” words, so the credit for the words goes to Gary.