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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Apologies With No Content


How many times have we heard “If I did x-and-so, I am truly sorry and ask your forgiveness”? Maybe we have said it ourselves. But what does it even mean after all? The “apology” is predicated upon an “if”, which suggests that the one extending the apology is not sorry for some actual offence but rather for an offence that is not believed was committed; and worse, as demonstrated by modus tollens, an offence that is believed was not committed! Given the “if”, the apology is disingenuous because the sorrow is as non-existent as the transgression is hypothetical.
Maybe look at it this way:

P1. If I sinned against you, then I’m sorry for sinning against you
P2. I sinned against you
Conlcusion: I’m sorry for sinning against you

The one offering the conditional apology says that premise 1 is true. Premise 2 is not deemed true by the one offering the alleged apology. Consequently, the truth of the conclusion is not established. Therefore, it does not follow that the person is sorry for having sinned against the other person.

Applying modus tollens, things become a bit more glaring:

p1. If I sinned against you, then I’m sorry for sinning against you
p2. I’m not sorry for (actually) sinning against you
Conclusion: It is false that I sinned against you

In the second way at looking at this, both premise 1 and 2 are deemed true by the one offering the alleged apology. Accordingly, not only is the person not sorry (premise 2), he must also believe it is false that he sinned against the other person because the negation of the consequent of P1, which is P2, necessitates the negation of the antecedent of P1, which is the conclusion of no sin against the other person. In other words, the one offering such a contingent apology implies that sorrow is a necessary condition for having sinned against the other person. Accordingly, if there is no sorrow, then the person is actually communicating that he did not sin against the person who believes he has been offended! By saying without having sorrow for actual sin: "If I sinned against you, then I'm sorry" does not imply that the person thinks he might have sinned. Rather, the statement actually underscores that the apology is being rendered by one who thinks he is innocent!
The moral of the story is, don't extend contingent apologies and don't receive them for what they truly communicate. It does nobody any real good. At best, one might mean by such an apology that he would not want to hurt someone else unnecessarily and that had he believed he was wrong, then he would be sorry and apologize. But even that communicates that there is disagreement over the question of whether an offence was actually given or just received (without warrant). So, why not just admit in the Lord, without any confusion, that there is disagreement and then seek to agree to disagree rather than offer some hypothetical apology for an hypothetical transgression?
Ron

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15 comments:

Joshua said...

"So, why not just admit in the Lord, without any confusion, that there is disagreement and then seek to agree to disagree rather than offer some hypothetical apology for an hypothetical transgression?"

Because we have to stroke and insulate the feelings of one another Ron, duh.

Mark said...

So if I did anything to offend you that was unintentional on my part then I’m probably sorry. Nevertheless, since I don’t think I did anything to offend you I’m not sorry for there is nothing for which I should be sorry. Still, I might be convinced to be sorry if I could be convinced that what I did unintentionally was actually offensive. On the other hand it is more probable that your skin is entirely too thin and the offense you’ve taken is unwarranted in which case I am not sorry. What is most likely however is that you were offended because you were wrong and your ego has gotten involved, in which case I am not sorry AND you should get over it. Then too there is the possibility that I was being a jerk and actually meant to offend you in which case it is most likely that I am not sorry, even though in such a case it may be that I should be sorry. In this case it may be that I should be sorry for offending and also sorry for not being sorry that I was offensive.

So I had a few minutes to kill. Sorry……or not.

;-)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

LOL!!!

Keith said...

I'd be interested in knowing what family incident spawned this post. :D

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Nope, not a family incident. :) It was something my pastor brought to my attention and then I witnessed it in a nonfamilial situation that was somewhat profound. How about Mark's comment?!

Anonymous said...

You seem to be failing to make clear distinctions between three different things here. To say “I’m sorry” is a description of your feelings. It expresses a sorrow over a broken relationship. To repent is to acknowledge a real sin against God’s law. To ask forgiveness is to acknowledge that someone has been offended to ask that the person forgive the offense so that the relationship can be restored.

When we are dealing with offenses against God, we can assume that repentance must accompany a request for forgiveness. That is because God never misunderstands or misconstrues. He knows our hearts and is only offended when we have actually sinned. Unfortunately, men do not know one another’s hearts absolutely, even though they are often quick to judge them. They read bad intentions into one another’s words or actions, see one another in the worst possible light, and then accuse and take offense at what they think they see. If it was a sin to offend anyone, then woe to us all! We often offend even when our intentions are (humanly speaking) without fault.

So when someone is offended by what he reads into another person’s words and actions, a mature Christian is likely to acknowledge that the other person is offended and ask that the offense be forgiven and peace restored even if there was no actual sin involved. “Please forgive me if my actions made you think I did not care about your situation.” This is a gracious and humble thing to do. It is being willing to make oneself vulnerable for the sake of peace. And if someone refuses to forgive under these circumstances, that is, because the wording of the request for forgiveness does not meet their standards, then he is being a manipulative jerk—and more important, he is failing to forgive his debtors as God has forgiven him.” (I am certain that my repentance and requests for forgiveness made to God have never been untainted by sin, yet, praise His boundless grace, He has forgiven me every sin confessed and every sin not confessed.)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

You seem to be failing to make clear distinctions between three different things here. To say “I’m sorry” is a description of your feelings. It expresses a sorrow over a broken relationship.

Indeed, if one is truly sorrow for sin, then there can also be sorrow over the damaged relationship. Notwithstanding, the sorrow in view, on this post anyway, is over the hypothetical prospect of having sinned against another. The person is alleging sorrow on the condition of having sinned, which he doesn’t think he has.

To repent is to acknowledge a real sin against God’s law."

Fine enough.

"To ask forgiveness is to acknowledge that someone has been offended to ask that the person forgive the offense so that the relationship can be restored.

What if one is offended due to his imagination as opposed to from a result of a true offense given? What is being forgiven in such a case but a non-transgression.

[Men] read bad intentions into one another’s words or actions, see one another in the worst possible light, and then accuse and take offense at what they think they see. If it was a sin to offend anyone, then woe to us all! We often offend even when our intentions are (humanly speaking) without fault.

I think I agree w/ what you are trying to say here. Some people take offense when none is given. What you desire is that one ask for forgiveness (but only one time - see what you write below!) when he is not guilty.

So when someone is offended by what he reads into another person’s words and actions, a mature Christian is likely to acknowledge that the other person is offended and ask that the offense be forgiven and peace restored even if there was no actual sin involved.

And therein we find your point, which I couldn’t disagree with more. How can one forgive a non-sin? Do you see the equivocation in your line of reasoning?

“Please forgive me if my actions made you think I did not care about your situation.”

In other words, you are saying: “Please forgive me for your perception of my sin, which was not truly sin.”

This is a gracious and humble thing to do.

Again, I disagree. Such procedure is not helpful to the other person because it confirms them in their belief that offense received presupposes sinful-offence given. At the very least, such language is not truthful.

And if someone refuses to forgive under these circumstances, that is, because the wording of the request for forgiveness does not meet their standards, then he is being a manipulative jerk—and more important, he is failing to forgive his debtors as God has forgiven him.”

Your supposition is that one can forgive a non-sin. Then you proceed to reason that if one doesn’t get it on the second go-round, then he becomes a “manipulative jerk.” I find this all a bit arbitrary and disjointed.

Ron

Anonymous said...

The tenor of anonymous's reasoning is dead on.While it is true that we may not be sinning against someone;that is;the other person is percieving an offense that just isn't there...it is the utmost Christlike response to be overly humble and gracious.What's the goal here Ron; to be right through logically proving your position.One can be straight and gracious in all interactions.There is SO much scripture that bears this out...

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

First off, being logical and being gracious are not mutually exclusive, which your post denies by good and necessary inference. No one is suggesting that one need not be humble and gracious with a brother who has taken offence when no offence has been given. Of course we are to be gracious, even long suffering which, by the way, you do not affirm given that you are willing to write someone off as a "manipulative jerk" after one attempt to make peace.

In the final analyes your position reduces to:

If one is to be gracious, then he must apologize for something that is not true. Therefore, not to apologize for something that is not true is to be ungracious. Obviously such an argument reduces to absurdity. Your axiom by which you derive your conclusion is that it is not gracious to avoid admitting guilt when there is no guilt. Accordingly, your position requires that forgiveness be requested and extended over non-sin and, therefore, non-guilt. It's a feel-good position that bears false witness to what is true.

Ron

let's be reasonable... said...

what an ironic exchange… there is absolutely no way that both anonymous people are different people… well anyway it’s hard to believe that two people can be so confused on something so easy… ron, you are being logical and gracious to this illogical and ungracious person!!! the irony is killing me.... it actually painful for me to witness how emotional, irrational and downright nasty some people can be.. what is worst of all is that anonymous parades his or her mean and ungracious ignorance unashamedly… to use their own words --- he / she is being a manipulative jerk!!! btw, i thought you graciously stated after proving your position “So, why not just admit in the Lord, without any confusion, that there is disagreement and then seek to agree to disagree rather than offer some hypothetical apology for an hypothetical transgression?” i guess anonymous missed that one too!!!! i like mark’s response... it really sums up anonymous's well thought out position.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain this for me? Anonymous wrote --“So when someone is offended by what he reads into another person’s words and actions, a mature Christian is likely to acknowledge that the other person is offended and ask that the offense be forgiven and peace restored even if there was no actual sin involved."

What I don't understand is how can someone forgive an offence that was made up in someone elses mind? I mean what is being forgiven when there is no real offense. What is the peace based upon? Am I thinking about this right?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Most recent Anonymous,

I'm not sure whether you're trying to be a straight-man or whether your question is sincere. :) The short answer is that you don't understand because you are trying to reconcile a contradiction. It is precisely because there is no offence that it is impossible to truly forgive the offence. This matter is rather basic and the original post and thread speaks for itself.

Ron

Anonymous said...

This is Anonymous #2. I commented on Anonymous #1. Anonymous #1 and #2 are not the same person. I can prove this logically...LOL...or can I? But who's on first? AABBOOTT!!

Mark said...

To say “I’m sorry” is a description of your feelings.

And here is the real problem in all of this. Anon is ruled by his/her emotions. He/she mistakes certain negative feelings for being sorry. It is no wonder then that he/she finds Ron's point beyond his/her ken.

Being sorry is not feeling a particular way anymore than love and hate are feelings, (though it is certainly true that those ruled by their emotions are easily offended.) Like love, being sorry is a matter of the intellect. It requires an actual understanding of right and wrong and the cognitive ability to ascertain (based on that correct understanding) if one has actually committed an offense. If such an offense has actually occurred then one offers an apology, not because one feels that they should, but because one knows that an apology is the right thing to do. This is a matter of intellect and will. It is not a matter of having had Tacos with too much tabasco.

Anonymous said...

Mark says, "And here is the real problem in all of this. Anon is ruled by his/her emotions."

Anonymous #2 (male/he) says, Wow, that is amazing - you know me better than my wife does!

Mark says, "He/she mistakes certain negative feelings for being sorry."

Anonymous #2 says - No, I don't. Go back to my original post to see what my point is.

Mark says, "Like love, being sorry is a matter of the intellect. "

Anonymous #2 says - Tell the writer of the OT book Songs of Songs that idea. He would be out of work as a writer.