Confess, Apologize, Ask Forgiveness–What’s the Difference?

Over the years, after coming clean with my wife and working with other men who want to make a change in their marriages by dealing with hidden sin and its consequences, I have found time and again that folks don’t know the difference between asking forgiveness and apologizing, or just telling a story and confessing sin. I think it is extremely important to use the right words and phrasing when working on reconciliation with someone you have sinned against. Using specific words and asking specific things transforms your thinking, and very much indicates whether or not you are taking Personal Responsibility for your sin.

As an example, I could go to my wife, take her hand, look her in the eyes and say, “Honey, I need to tell you…yesterday I went to a pornographic website and watched movies for a couple of hours.” It is surprising how many men think that qualifies as a confession, and they expect to hear, “I forgive you,” as a response. On the contrary–I did not even confess to my wife, much less ask her to forgive me! I just gave her a recital of facts.

I look at 1 John 1:9 and the word used for “confess” is ὁμολογῶμεν. The definition/connotation of that Greek term, per Strong’s, is “to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent”. It means you agree with God or others regarding what you have done. That goes way beyond just stating what was done. A confession would be, “Honey, I know it was wrong, but yesterday I downloaded and watched a pornographic movie. I betrayed your trust and sinned against you.”  That states what was done and agrees that it was a sin. 

It does not apologize or ask forgiveness for what was done, so it should not expect an “I forgive you” as a response (even though God says he is faithful and just to forgive our sins if we confess them to him). 

Speaking of an apology, what is the difference between apologizing and asking forgiveness?

An apology is saying you’re sorry, such as saying, “I’m so sorry!” Or “My apologies!” when you accidentally run into someone while walking through the store. It is not tied to sin, since an apology does not express having committed one. “Sorry” is an even more dangerous term when dealing with sin because too often it means “I wish I hadn’t done that; I don’t like the backlash.” Sometimes it just means, “I’m sorry I got caught. I’ll be more careful next time.”

Asking forgiveness combines confession and asking someone to forgive you for sinning against them. For example, “I downloaded a porn movie and watched it yesterday. I know it was very wrong of me to do so. I sinned against you, and betrayed your trust by committing adultery against you. Will you please forgive me?”

Can you see the difference?

So why is the correct language important?

Being intentional in thought, language, action–everything– is a huge part of breaking free from bondage to sin. 

And repairing broken relationships. 

And building trust. 

And brokenness.

Using specific, intentional language requires that you think about what you say, which over time helps to renew your mind. It is a big part of taking Personal Responsibility for your sin, acknowledging that you have hurt others and damaged relationships by your actions. Over time, when you are tempted to sin you will recall what you are going to have to say to those whom you sin against, and it will change your behavior.

There is more to the conversation. After confessing and asking forgiveness, you need to ask, “Is there anything else you need to hear me say?” Then, once you have gone through everything that needs to be said, ask, “How does my sin make you feel?” That will lead to another round of confessions and asking forgiveness. Keep cycling through until everything has been discussed and worked through. It takes time, but the resulting reconciliation and change in the way you think is well worth it!

In Him,

George

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Openness, Brokenness, Freedom

I have been part of Whatever It Takes Ministries pretty much since the beginning. The main motto is Open, Broken, Free, referring to how being open about sin in my life leads to my being a broken (humbled) man, free from bondage to hidden sin.

Originally, I had the idea that this was a point-in-time occurrence. I could confess everything, get all my garbage out in the open. Then I would be like some of the men I knew, who talked about an experience of being totally broken before the Lord, on my face and weeping, a cathartic instance of becoming (in one fell swoop) a broken man. All of this would set me completely free from all temptation and bondage to sin.

I did the “open” bit in 2005, when I came clean with my wife, boss, pastor, oldest brother and sister, and a lot of other people. I wept before God and my wife as a “broken” man. I did break free from the bondage of masturbation which had ruled me for 28 years. However, that short period of being open and broken did not set me free for the long term, and within a few months I started back into pornography and hiding my sin. I finally got caught almost a year later and had to start over…

So, now I have a different perspective. Open and Broken is a start, but it is not enough. Instead, it must translate into a lifestyle of Openness and Brokenness, leading to an ongoing Freedom from slavery to sin.

Openness is the theme of 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” ESV‬‬. Note that it is a walk, an ongoing thing, not a point in time. Whenever I stop practicing openness, I lose fellowship with God, with my wife, with fellow Christians.

Brokenness, in my opinion, is best shown by “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus didn’t just humble himself once, but He lived a life of doing the Father’s will and not His own (as Jesus made clear in the Garden of Gethsemane). Walking in Brokenness is decision by decision, choosing to obey God rather than sin.

Living in Openness, walking in Brokenness, perforce leads to a life of Freedom from bondage to sin.

As stated multiple times in Romans chapter 6, Jesus’ death and resurrection not only took the punishment for our sin, but also set us free from sin. If you are not a Christian, you are still a slave to sin. If you are a Christian, you have absolutely no excuse to continue a life of sin.

May God bless you and keep you, and may you live a life of Openness, Brokenness, and Freedom.

George