What’s the Difference Between Making an Apology and Saying Your Sorry?

This is a very quick guide to the difference between making an apology and expressing repentance.  As I’ve written elsewhere, we flagrantly abuse the word apologize in our culture, (and we’re deeply sorry for that).

In actuality, the true definition of an apology may sound surprising, because when we apologize for something, we are actually supposed to be providing a defense for it.  Yes, it’s true.  The word apology comes from the Greek word apologia, which literally means to “defend” or “vindicate.”

However, whenever we bring about immoral states of affairs, the best course of action is to practice the art of repentance. The word repent is an oldie but a goodie, and it’s actually a verb.  To repent simply means to express contrition or remorse, then commit to change.  Tacit in repentance is the idea of sorrow & regret.  We might look to words like “rueful” or “remorseful” for keener insight.

To summarize, I’ve provided the following two “hypothetical” examples (because these types of scenarios never really happen in my own life, shhhhh):

Scenario #1 –  My husband comes home from work late for a fabulous dinner we’d planned out with friends.  He walks through the door and in a rush explains to my contorting face that his boss entered his office for a last-minute strategy session, and caught up in the conversation, Hubby failed to alert me about his long delay.  In this case, my husband is offering me an “apology” for what he is late. He may regret that he is late, and he certainly wishes things could have gone differently. In essence he is saying “I’m sorry,” but with caveats.  Truly, all circumstances equal again, he most likely would repeatedly take the last-minute meeting with his boss.  He defends his actions, but he expresses remorse at causing me disappointment regarding our plans.

Scenario # 2 – Hubby comes home late another night and explains that he winsomely lost track of time due to some amazing project he was perfecting, and thus he failed to remember the date night with friends on the calendar.  On this occasion, and keenly noticing the fact that my hair is on fire, he chooses to quickly (and before my head pops off and rolls away) express his repentance. This includes both his remorse and sorrow, in addition to a commitment to a future change. He might make that mistake again, but the point is in the moment, he truly regrets it and desires to do differently in future.

Viola! See the difference?

Any questions in the comment section are welcome!  I offer free consultations for relationship coaching and am delighted to assist in bringing about lasting change through helping others experience breakthroughs in their relational patterns and triggers. There is never an obligation after speaking with me!



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