Have you every spoken the words, “I’m sorry?” Have you ever told your child that they need to tell someone else – a sibling, a friend, a teacher – “I’m sorry?”
However, is it enough to simply say, “I’m sorry?”
The word, “sorry,” means to feel regret or sorrow. All of us have known the feeling of regret or sorrow when we have done something that we should not have done or said. King David, after his sin with Bathsheba, knew exactly the feeling of regret.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. Psalm 32:3-4
Often though, particularly when a child or young person says the words, “I’m sorry,” while they may feel regret or sorrow for what they have done, what they really mean is, “I’m sorry that I got caught. Next time, I’ll try to do it in such a way as to not get caught!” After years of working with children and teenagers along with having my own children, I have seen this to be true because often, as soon as you leave the room, the child goes back to doing the exact same thing they were doing before. We’re they sorry? Yes. But only as far as they got caught!
So, if it is not enough to merely say, “I’m sorry,” what should we be teaching our children?
2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…”
While an individual’s conscience should bother them – They should feel regret for having done wrong – it should not stop there.
- The child should humbly acknowledge that they have done wrong. When presented with the “facts” the child should be taught to they need to accept ownership for what they have done. They need to admit that what they have done is wrong. They should be willing to say, “Yes, I know that what I did was wrong.” King David, in Psalm 32:5 said,
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
- The child should then be taught to apologize – to ask for forgiveness from the one they have wronged. Instead of simply saying, “I’m sorry,” the child should, after they have admitted they have done wrong, should then ask, “Will you forgive me?”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Some parents may be tempted to say, “If I took the time to do all of this with my child each time they did wrong, I’d never get anything else done.” Others parents simply won’t do this because it takes too much effort – too much work. Especially after a hard day in the office! If that is how you look at it, then you are looking at it all wrong!
Now no chastening [discipline] for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Hebrews 12:11
The purpose behind all of this is so that the child or young person will then, at some point in their life, as the Holy Spirit begins to convict them of sin, be willing to acknowledge their sin to God, humbly accept His forgiveness through Jesus Christ and receive the gift of eternal life!