sorry, or sorrow?

Posted: January 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

“I’m sorry.”  I stared at my feet, wondering how long this conversation would take, squirming with shame.  This was kind of an all-the-time conversation, lately.

“Sorry for what?  You’re not sorry for what you did.  You’re sorry you got caught.”

Well, she had me there.  My sorry was not from a contrite heart, nor from a desire to do better.  My sorry was not a pain at having caused others pain, nor a sincere attempt to repair what I had done.  There was no dawning need in me to change my ways, no sincere self examination, no quiet thought of doing differently in the future.

She was right.  I had gotten caught.  Again.  I was in trouble.  Again.  My sorry was a negotiation tactic, an attempt to end the conversation as quickly as possible, a half-hearted shot at avoiding punishment.  It was something to say, when there wasn’t much I could say.  It was a lubricant of sorts, meant to extract me from the presence of her disappointment and anger.

I wasn’t sorry.  I was uncomfortable, and my mom calling me out on my manipulation attempt multiplied my discomfort.  I was sixteen and not navigating life very well.


“You’re right.  It is my fault.”  I wasn’t sixteen anymore – I had teenage kids of my own.  But here I was again, at my parents’ kitchen table.  After months and months of quietly enduring my bad decisions that affected my parents financially, I was being called on the carpet.

I had more integrity now than I had at sixteen.  I looked my mom in the eye.  I didn’t make excuses – doing so would only be pretending that what I was doing was okay.  I couldn’t lie like that.  I didn’t use the words, “I’m sorry.”  I felt like I had already wrung any meaning out of those words by my teenage abuse of them.  That they would sound empty, hollow…maybe even manipulative.  I listened.  I resisted tears – tears would have been manipulative from me too, I thought.  The least I could do was sit up straight, look her in the eye, and own it.

The pit in my stomach was just as bad now as it had been at sixteen, but this conversation felt cleaner, somehow.  There was no pretending.

Still, I didn’t find a way to make it right.  I still had growing to do.


“Please forgive me.”  I was over forty now, and I was back at my parents’ table.  I had called ahead to make an appointment for this.  I brought notes.  This was making amends, an essential part of my 12-step journey.  My mission:  confess my wrongs and make amends.  An unconditional process, looking only at my side of the equation and taking no measure of anything else.  Making no excuses.  My list for amends with my parents was long.  Included on it was the money that had been discussed that night described above.  I came not just with words, but also with a plan for repayment.

This was one of the most healing conversations I have ever had in my life.  Also one of the most terrifying.  I almost couldn’t do it.


I read this great blog recently that I now cannot find, entitled something like, “confess without repenting.”  It made the excellent point that often when we confess our sins to God, we rush in with our plan for how to do better.  It wasn’t actually advocating failure to repent.  It just proposed that we take a pause after confessing.

What an uncomfortable thing, I thought, as I pondered that.  If I just confess and don’t say how I’m doing to do better, then I’m stuck just feeling the pain of what I have done.   I will feel it so much more sharply if I can’t hustle in the self-improvement promise right on the heels of the confession.

Then I realized, that’s the point.  If I have to sit with my confession, I WILL feel the weight of my sin.  I will feel sorrow and conviction.  I will actually BE sorry…not sorry like teenage me (sorry I got caught) or just owning it but not changing, like my middle story.

I guess that’s what it means when scripture that says, “Godly sorrow leads to true repentance.”


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