True Repentance: What to look for…

True repentance: what to look for...

True Repentance: What to look for…

You hear about people that have done things to hurt or wrong others and then apologize and immediately relationships are restored. Then, that same person may turn around and repeat that same offense only to cause further hurt and damage trust in their relationships. The offended may feel frustrated and confused because the offender apologized, and they truly felt it was genuine. So what happened? Did they restore relationship too quickly? Was the offender really sincere in their apology? Was there really true repentance?

Unfortunately though, sometimes people deliver apologies or want to restore relationship without having true repentance. There are some gauges we can use to discern whether or not a person is indeed fully and completely repentant. There is some evidence that we can look for as well as some indicators that they may not be at a place of full and true repentance yet.

Let’s take a look…

Genuine apologies are offered in true repentance

Previously, I wrote a post about how to apologize effectively. In that post I mentioned a book that Dr. Gary Chapman co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Thomas titled When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=hapheapro-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0802407048 in which they detail the study of apologies and how people give and receive them.  The goal of their book was to help people “learn the techniques to effectively recognize and deliver apologies and watch relationships thrive as a result”.

The five basic languages of apology are:

  1. Accept Responsibility—this is basically just admitting you are wrong and accepting full responsibility for your actions
  2. Expressing Regret—this is a genuine “I’m sorry” and show of remorse for causing pain
  3. Make Restitution—in this form of apology you commit to making things right
  4. Genuinely Repent—this shows the sincere desire to modify your behavior and future actions
  5. Request Forgiveness—in this apology language you recognize the need for forgiveness, and you physically ask for forgiveness

A genuine apology that contains all five of these aspects may be an indicator of true repentance. However, words can only go so far, and as the saying goes…actions speak louder than words. So there are some other things to look for as well.

Humility is evident in true repentance

The person should admit that their behavior is wrong and take fully responsibility for their actions, not just in their apology but continuously. They will willingly accept and understand that their actions and choices brought them to their current position. We should see this person swallowing their pride and being humble, not taking part in any blame-shifting.

“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, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:7-10 (NIV)

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 (NLT)

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NLT)

Indicators that they might not be fully repentant:

  • Refuses to apologize and confess
  • Blames others
  • Makes excuses
  • Won’t take full and complete responsibility
  • Gets irritated about the current state or position in which they find themselves

True repentance requires proper and respectful response to authority

The person will show a willingness to accept and submit to authority and their process(es). They should not have a problem with any form of accountability necessary, especially if restoration of relationship(s) is needed. He/She should willingly follow the direction and instructions of any governing authority in their life (especially as it relates to the offense)…government, ministry or spiritual leadership, counselors, parents, teachers, employers, etc.

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.” Romans 13:1-5 (NLT)

Indicators that they might not be fully repentant:

  • Makes comments about being “controlled” and pushes back any kind of appearance of “being controlled”
  • Doesn’t like other people telling them what to do
  • Is disrespectful to authority
  • Refuses to comply with directions or instructions of authority
  • Doesn’t take and apply recommendations from a counselor

True repentance requires transparency

The person should be entirely open and honest in all aspects of life. They should have a willingness and a dedication to avoid any kind of deception or even appearance of doing wrong. There should be no hesitancy to show evidence or proof of their activity. They should keep nothing hidden from people to whom they are accountable. He/She should even go as far as taking pains to do what is right including extra measures, even if it’s inconvenient or obnoxious. There should be full and complete cooperation without recoil, showing all diligence, in proving themselves innocent and blameless.

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” 2 Corinthians 8:21 (NIV)

“We don’t want anyone to find fault with the way we are administering this generous gift. We intend to do what is right, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of people. We have also sent with them our Christian brother whom we have often tested in many ways and found to be a dedicated worker. We find that he is much more dedicated now than ever because he has so much confidence in you.” 2 Corinthians 8:20-22 (GW)

“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV)

Indicators that they might not be fully repentant:

  • Refuses to be completely open and honest
  • Continues to hide things
  • Won’t share login information, passwords, etc. (if child or spouse)
  • Hesitates or gets irritated when having to prove or test themselves
  • Refuses to be subject to any accountability

True repentance involves making amends

When a person has wronged another, if they are repentant they will do everything in their power to make peace and to make things right with the wronged party. They should refrain from causing additional pain, any trouble, or any undue hardship for the other person.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (NIV)

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

Indicators that they might not be fully repentant:

  • Puts minimal effort into reconciliation or restoration
  • Instigates fights and arguments
  • Doesn’t feel they should have to do anything extra to remedy their offense

Patience is demonstrated in true repentance

A repentant person is not pushy nor rushes to acquire complete restoration. They are patient and willing to take things slowly. They realize that it may take some time for trust to be reestablished or rebuilt. Additionally, he/she recognizes that it is a process to rebuild trust by making good choices and proving themselves over a period of time.

Correct Actions/Choices + Time = Trust

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrew 10:36 (NLT)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)

Indicators that they might not be fully repentant:

  • Impatience in rebuilding trust
  • Gets angry and irritated that things aren’t moving quickly or that restoration isn’t happening as fast as they’d like
  • Is pushy or tries to take shortcuts to restoration

True repentance involves making changes that are evident and lasting

As person becomes fully repentant, they should be making some positive changes in their lives that are outwardly evident. Also, these changes should not be short-lived but lasting. They need to prove over a period of time that they are consistent, reliable, and credible.

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:43-45 (NLT)

“But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Matthew 13:21 (NIV)

Indicators that they might not be fully repentant:

  • Is not consistently reliable
  • Continues to make the same mistakes
  • Says one thing but does another—lacks integrity
  • Only shows change for a short while (possibly as a ruse), but then goes back to negative behavior patterns

Take Some Practical Steps to Look for True Repentance:

It may just take some time. This sometimes comes in stages as God works on their heart and opens their eyes. You don’t necessarily have to cut them off completely.

If you still wish to restore relationship when they aren’t showing signs of being fully repentant yet, you will need to maintain some safe and healthy boundaries. This will require you to seek God’s direction as to what those are in your specific situation. You should also possibly seek help and guidance from a counselor to help you discern this as well.

Additionally, this may require some extra patience and kindness from you. It is very difficult to maintain a relationship with a person that you don’t believe is completely repentant. You will probably need some extra doses of grace from God in order to be patient and kind and to bear with them in the meantime. These very acts on your part may also help bring them to full repentance. After all, God does this very same thing for us.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV)

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

What has helped you in determining true repentance in another person? Share with us by leaving a comment below.

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