Sorry vs Repentance

In any relationship there are times when we make mistakes, or are faced with a spouse, friend or business associate who does something to hurt our relationship with them. When we confront them, and they want to restore the relationship, we usually see one of two faces of remorse: they are either sorry or repentant. 

Being Sorry

Sorry is a sacrifice of oneself to get back what they lost due to bad behavior. 

When one is sorry they will still defend their inappropriate actions as appropriate due to the circumstances at that time.  They will often blame their actions on other people. 
When one is sorry and doesn’t get the results they are seeking they become angry and resentful.  They will typically resort back to their previous inappropriate behavior rather quickly, and rationalize it by blaming the other person for not giving them what they wanted in return for their changed behavior. 

When one is sorry and they do get back what they want, they are satisfied. However, they will still typically resort back to the previous inappropriate behavior. It will not be noticeable at first; it will happen slowly, in small incremental steps. 

Sorry only has temporary results.

Being Repentant

Repentance is the willingness to give up the rest of what you have to make things right. 

Repentance is revealed in a long term ability:

  • Take responsibility of their own actions without the need to blame others
  • To deny oneself
  • To be humble
  • To Identify how our actions hurt us, hurt others and limited our ability to succeed

These are the internal qualities that prove one is truly repentant. 
When one is repentant they won’t defend their past actions, they will condemn them and warn others not to do the same. They may recognize what others did to trigger their negative emotions, but they won’t blame their inappropriate behavior on others. 

When one is repentant and doesn’t get the results from others they want, they will continue on the path of improved behavior.  They recognize their part in the relationship and remain faithful to their Foundaional Core Values regardless of other’s behaviors. 

When one is repentant and does get the results from others they desire they remain humble and greatful, and they show it by continuing on the path of improved behavior. 

Repentance has long lasting results.

Use Discernment

As you learn to recognize these two patterns of behavior in those you have confronted I encourage you to walk away from the friends and business associates that are sorry.  In fact, run away. Walking away may be too slow a retreat and you might be tempted to reengage them. 

It is better to lose business and unhealthy friendships than to endure the stress of repeated offenses. 
If you are married to someone that is sorry but not repentant, get help from a counselor or marriage coach.

Don’t only confront them with how they are hurting you, but ask them open ended questions to help them discover how their actions might be violating their Foundational Core Values.  Be concerned about them hurting themselves and give them time to work through the internal emotional chaos that violating themselves creates. 

By doing this you are embracing the same force they are, loving them, but from a more healthy perspective. 

I want to warn you about divorcing too quickly, especially if you have children.  Divorce seldom solves more problems than it creates. And you will still remain attached to your former spouse emotionally and in daily life, due to the children.  
If you aren’t married, discern rather quickly how a boyfriend or girlfriend handles relationships when things go wrong. Are they sorry or repentant when they act inappropriately?  Can they even admit when they are wrong?  

In business this level of discernment is equally as important, because how they treated the last business relationship is the best indicator of how they will treat you.  Be willing to walk away from a great deal, because connecting yourself with a non repentant business partner is a recipe for disaster!

But most important is how you act.  Examine your own past and honestly ask yourself:

  • Can I easily admit it when I am wrong?
  • Do I have to blame others or can I be wrong all by myself?
  • When I act inappropriately am I sorry or repentant?
  • What keeps me from showing true repentance?
  • Who can I ask to help me be accountable to handle my mistakes appropriately. 

If you need help, find a coach that can help you discover your Foundational Core Values so that you can harness what is intrinsically important to you in order to make the adjustments you need to make. 

In the end, we are only responsible for our own actions and reactions. Even if no one else is repentant, you will feel better about yourself and live a more fulfilled life if you leave being sorry behind and move forward with repentance.