Teaching kids to say they are sorry is important but it’s only a start. When kids are small they should learn to say sorry. As kids get older we must teach our kids that sorry is good when it leads to repentance. We live in a world that only knows how to say sorry but doesn’t even attempt to turn from the actions that created the need for the apology in the first place. We address the feelings of others “I’m sorry if I made you feel…” we most often fail to mention the very real gap our actions created. The problem with saying sorry is sorry can be used to gloss over sin. Repentance digs deeper to the root of sin.
I know of a very well-known minister who heads a denomination of churches who many years ago wronged another denomination in a very significant way. The breach came through core beliefs of the church. The well-known minister recently said he was sorry to the other denomination without address the gap they had created and still perpetuates through false beliefs that are core to the church. He said sorry when he should have repented.
I don’t want my kids to be sorry saying appeasers, I want them to repent and ask for forgiveness for the gaps they create. Saying sorry is for the other person, to help them feel better, repentance is different it does a work in you. This is how I teach my kids to apologize I tell them to say “Mr./Mrs. ________ I am sorry for ___________ (specifically name what you did) I was wrong. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again. Apologizing in this way addresses what how you affected the other person ask them to forgive you as you were in the wrong and invites God into the process because what you mean by I won’t do it again is by grace and with his help, I won’t do it again.
We have to look at our sin as more than a mistake that “sorry” will cover. David didn’t just say oops he saw his sin as treason. I love how Dr. Keller puts it
“David’s confession to God is radical and intense: “Against you, you only, have I sinned” How can he say that when he has killed someone? It is because sin is like treason. If you try to overthrow you own country you may harm or kill individuals in the process, but you will be tried for treason because you have betrayed the entire country that nurtured you. Every sin is cosmic treason – it is overthrowing the rule of the one to whom you owe everything.”
Sin is not a mistake for which we say oops, it is cosmic treason that should lead us to admit our sin, confess our sin and turn from our sin. The sooner we teach our kids to repent rather than say “I’m sorry” the closer they will grow to God’s heart.