Dr. Brent Potter
Damage is a part of life. We knowingly and unknowingly inflict harm upon ourselves and others to lesser and greater degrees as we make our way through this pilgrimage called life. When we hurt ourselves or others, we often feel remorse. At a minimum, a red flag goes up in our minds after seeing a person’s reaction that indicates that we probably just said or did something offensive and/or stupid.At other times, we are just blatantly destructive and feel quite justified about it in the heat of the moment. It is only after we calm down that the gut-churning “Oh my God, what did I just say (or do)?” effect kicks in. We then, hopefully, do the right thing by arranging a time to utter those most humbling of words: “I am sorry.”
If you can identify with one or more aspects of what I just wrote, then you are among the majority. It seems that most of us do quite a bit of injury, of various sorts, because we apologize quite a bit.
According to a survey of 1,100 people conducted by Esure Car Insurance, the average person in the UK apologizes a shocking 1.9 million times in his or her lifetime. The word “sorry” is spoken 368 million times per day in the UK. Interestingly, the average UK citizen does not say “sorry” 33% third of the time.
In descending order of most to least common, the top five reasons for apologizing are 1) when we do not have time to speak to someone or do something, 2) to apologize on someone else’s behalf, such as children, a partner or colleague, 3) when we did not hear what someone was saying, 4) when we want something explained again, and 5) when we feel the need to apologize for having lied or caused harm.
Twenty-seven percent of our uses of the word sorry are aimed at our partners, 19% are said to strangers, 14% to colleagues, 8% to friends, 5% to parents, 3% to siblings, and a minuscule 1% to our employer (BBC, 2007). If you think you hear women saying “I’m sorry” more than men, you are correct. Women do apologize more often than men, according to research.
But the study indicates that it is not that men are more reluctant to admit wrongdoing. Rather, it is just that they have a higher threshold for what they think merits reparation. When the researchers looked at the number of apologies relative to the number of offenses the participants perceived they had committed, the researchers saw no differences between the genders.
“Men aren’t actively resisting apologizing because they think it will make them appear weak or because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions,” said researcher Karina Schumann, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. “It seems to be that when they think they’ve done something wrong they do apologize just as frequently as when women think they’ve done something wrong. It’s just that they think they’ve done fewer things wrong.”
The findings might have implications for how men and women communicate with each other. Although women are often stereotyped as the more apologetic sex, there is no empirical evidence to back this assumption. Schumann and her colleagues conducted two studies to see if genders do indeed differ in how often they apologize, and if so, why this might be.
In one study, 33 university students (ages 18 to 44) kept an online diary for 12 days documenting whether they apologized or did something they thought required an apology, even if they did not actually say they were sorry. They also kept track of how often they felt someone had committed an offensive act against them that warranted an apology.
Women apologized more and reported committing more offensive acts, but both men and women apologized about 81 % of the time when they deemed their actions offensive. Men were also less likely to report being victims of wrongdoing. This led the researchers to investigate whether men are just not offended as easily, and less likely to think they have done something objectionable.
In the second study, 120 undergraduates rated how severe they thought a particular offense was. For instance, they had to imagine they woke their friend up late at night, and because of the sleep disturbance, the friend did poorly on an interview the next day. Women rated the offenses as more severe than men did, and women were also more likely to say the friend deserved an apology (LiveScience, 2010).
Given that these studies were small and involved only university students, the findings might not apply to all men and women in general. Also, there may be other variables at work in the UK study. Perhaps people of the UK are the politest population in the world. In other words, I am not presenting these studies as hard facts of human life. Instead, I point them out because they bring to light some facets of the phenomenon of repair; we apologize, and we do so a lot.
What the Bible Says about Telling the Truth
Let’s look at what God says about telling the truth. As you will see, God’s standards are high:
The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. – Proverbs 12:22
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. – 1 Peter 3:10
Mahoney (2018) points out the following:
God, Honesty, and Truth
Christ said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If Christ is Truth, then it follows that lying is moving away from Christ. Being honest is about following in God’s footsteps, for He cannot lie. If the Christian teen’s goal is to become more God-like and God-centered, then honesty needs to be a focus.
So, God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. – Hebrews 6:18
Honesty Reveals Our CharacterHonesty is a direct reflection of your inner character. Your actions reflect your faith and reflecting the truth in your actions is a part of being a good witness. Learning how to be more honest will also help you keep a clear conscious.
Character plays a big role in where you go in your life. Honesty is considered a characteristic that employers and college interviewers look for in candidates. When you are faithful and honest, it shows.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. – Luke 16:10
Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. – 1 Timothy 1:19
The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful. – Proverbs 12:5
While your honesty level reflects your character, it is also a way to show your faith. In the Bible, God made honesty one of his commandments. Since God cannot lie, He sets the example for all His people. God desires that we follow that example in all that we do.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. – Exodus 20:16
The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. – Proverbs 16:11
The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever. – Psalm 119:160
Christian Living: How to Keep Your Faith Strong
Being honest is not always easy. As Christians, we know how easy it is to fall into sin. Therefore, you need to work at being truthful, and it is work. The world does not give us easy situations, and sometimes we need to work hard to keep our eyes on God to find the answers. Being honest can sometimes hurt but knowing that you are following what God wants for you will make you more faithful in the end.
Honesty is also not just how you speak to others, but also how you speak to yourself. While humility and modesty are a good thing, being too harsh on yourself is not being truthful. Also, thinking too highly of yourself is a sin. Thus, you need to find a balance of knowing your blessings and shortcomings so you can continue to grow.
Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people. – Proverbs 11:3
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. – Romans 12:3
Christian counseling can help one become more internally consistent and aligned with God’s Word. As one client mentioned towards the end of our work together, “My insides match my outside behavior now.”
BBC News. (2007). Sorry to Say [online] Available: www.news.bbc.
LiveScience. (2010). Study Reveals Why Women Apologize So Much [online].
Mahoney, Kelli. “What the Bible Says About Honesty and Truth.” Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020, learnreligions.com/the-Bible-says-about-truth-honesty-712786.
Potter, B (2015). Elements of Reparation. London: Karnac Books
Keywords: Personal Development, Honesty, Repentance, Internal Consistency, Sin, Relationship, Regret
“Jenga,” courtesy of Michal Parzuchowski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License “Wrong Way”, Courtesy of Neonbrand, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Hian Oliveira, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple at Sunset”, Courtesy of Caleb Ekeroth, Unsplash.com, CC0 License