I'm sorry...goes how far?

During a recent conversation about dealing with certain aspects of domestic violence, I was asked, “What do you do when the abuser says, ‘But, I told her I was sorry. She has to forgive me, it’s in the Bible’?” There was the whole concept of apology versus restitution, i.e. restoration or reinstatement. Words. They are powerful. There is the power of life and death in the tongue, in the spoken word. Words can cut like a knife, they can commit emotional homicide. It’s also said, “Talk is cheap.” But those words, “I’m sorry” were preceded by some sort of action on the abuser’s part, whether it was physical, or just more words, only damaging and hurtful.


In the blink of an eye, out came my response. “Well, if I were counseling a couple and knew there was spouse abuse present, I’d first and foremost take proper precautions to afford safety for the victim, and avoid the chances of re-victimization (i.e. guarding the victim’s desire not to be in a room with her abuser, etc.).

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Okay, you apologized. You spoke all the right words. You want your relationship back. That is all well and good, and I acknowledge your act of kindness. Now, let’s set all the words to one side and look at those preceding actions I mentioned.

I would suggest to the “apologizer” that we move past what was said or how the apology transpired. What actions have you taken to show your partner your intent to restore the trust that was stripped away when you grabbed her arm, shouted wicked words to her, or worse? We are told we will know the value of a tree by the fruit it bears. Show me the fruit. Is it only half ripe? Perhaps it’s rotten. Maybe the tree needs a lot of pruning.

It might be a good exercise to turn to the Love Chapter in Corinthians and use it as a gauge. How and where do you measure up? Good intentions are great, but they don’t always get you very far.

So, to those former abusers who are sincerely seeking to put lives and relationships back together, hear my words. Please don’t expect an instantaneous change, and bear in mind you may never be able to regain the trust. Maybe she is expected to forgive you, but consider the fact that forgiving is not forgetting, and sometimes forgiving is not “for getting over” what has taken place. The relationship may be gone forever. If you set out to restore a 1956 Corvette that’s been sitting in a junk yard for 15 years, it will take a lot of work and application to finally bring it back to what it used to be, and it usually takes more than one person to make it happen, even if it’s just getting missing parts from someone else. So, if seeing a counselor is suggested, swallow your pride and go see the counselor. But there’s always a chance, even with new parts put in place, it will never run quite right. Trust is like that. Sometimes it can be damaged to the point it can only be brought back to a certain level. All the more reason to stop and consider the possible consequences of your actions before you take them.


Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her website at orangeblossomwishes.com

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