`I’m sorry’ doesn’t fix everything…

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

Ever have people say to you, “Well, I said I was sorry?”

They may not have sounded very sorry. Or perhaps, they truly were sorry. But does saying you’re sorry automatically make everything OK?

I know I want it to, at least when I’m the guy asking to be forgiven.

Several years ago, I broke the confidence of a friend.

While I apologized both on the phone and in a letter, our relationship has never quite been the same. It lacked the depth that it had before I failed to keep a certain piece of information to myself.

I don’t blame him for not trusting me quite as he did before.

That is not a sign of unforgivingness. I’m sure he has forgiven me. But there is part of him that is very careful about what he says in front of me. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s a consequence of my actions.

I know a man who had an affair many years ago. After much prayer, tears and counseling, his wife took him back and their marriage is restored. But one of the keys is he makes sure his wife always knows where he is and what he’s doing.

Rather than say in an accusing tone, “Don’t you trust me?” he gives her reasons to trust him. He uses his cell phone to be accountable to her. He walks the talk of his apology. Year by year, his marriage is returning to what it was before he cheated. And she doesn’t throw his past into his face because she can see his behavior has changed.

Too many people think we can apologize and then go back to business as usual.

Christian counselor and author Lynette Hoy wrote an article in Women Today magazine where she said, “There are consequences which sometimes can’t be and shouldn’t be removed when we forgive…. Forgiveness does not cancel out all consequences.”

Hoy cited a book called Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall. The book mentions the most extreme case of a woman who was sexually assaulted and she opposed the early release of the rapist. I know of people who were sexually abused as children, and have forgiven the abuser — but don’t want their children around the abuser.

A few friends lately are dealing with having an addict in the family who is stealing from them. Yes, he needs a place to stay. Yes, they have forgiven him. But no, they don’t have to allow him back in the house — at least not until he’s been clean for several years.

As Hoy also wrote, “Forgiveness does not mandate that you trust all people on the same level.”

It’s easy for most of us to understand that concept when applying it to someone who hurt us. But when we’re the person who offended someone else, we have to accept that.

Odds are the relationship that I had with the person whose trust I broke will mean that our dealings will be very casual, lacking the depth of the past. It took me a couple of years to figure that out, and then to realized it’s the consequence of my own actions.

It’s a harsh verse that’s often quoted from Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reap what he sows.”

The point is God can forgive us. Others can forgive us. But if we borrowed money from someone, apologizing for not paying it back isn’t enough. We need to work out a repayment plan and stick to it. Feeling forgiven means wanting to pay it back — and forward to someone else. It’s why so many former alcoholics and addicts become effective in helping others battle addictions.

In Luke 17, a crooked tax collector named Zacchaeus is so moved by the acceptance and forgiveness extended him by Jesus that he proclaims, “Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor. If I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Someone once said, “Being truly sorry means being sorry enough to change.” I try to remind myself of that when I need to apologize.

Terry Pluto can be reached at terrypluto2003@yahoo.com. Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at www.ohio.com.



  1. The Pudgeman Said:

    Great post brother. I have always heard an illustration that goes something like this: Let’s say a man is guilty and convicted of murder. His sentance is to be executed which may take several years to come to pass. Let’s say that during the time he is on death row he comes to accept Jesus and is truly repentant of the crime that he committed. He is now saved and one of God’s children but must still face the punishment for his crime. Not because he is still a murderer but because it is the consequence for his actions. I pray every day for mercy and want God to renew me constantly. I love you brother and I thank you for your wisdom today. B4T

  2. Sam Said:

    Great post, Jim, I agree with Terry’s points, thanks for reminding us!

  3. Jay Said:

    This is the kind of post that can hit alot of people right between the eye’s..

  4. WheresJim? Said:

    Almost everthing I see hits me right between the eyes…

    The eyes have it…

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