Featured Post

Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet

I’m the next link in a “chain of blogs” on the issue of divisiveness. Boy, do I know divisiveness. I created it. Two years ago, I caused a church to hurt because as the pastor, I committed adultery. I created great harm and pain to many people, including...

Read More

When “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in forgiveness, reconciliation, regret, relationships, repentance, sorrow | Posted on 14-05-2014


(This post was originally part of a larger series. You can find the original post here.)

sorrywmHave you ever been in a situation where you’ve either directly or indirectly wronged someone and come to the point where you knew it was time to say, “I’m sorry“? And what do we do when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough?

It’s not easy to ask for forgiveness. It is the right thing to do and it takes humility and the right heart.

I deal with fallen pastors a lot. I’m a fallen pastor myself. Those who fall from ministry hurt a lot of people. Usually, our first apologies are insincere and riddled with defensiveness and self-justification. But eventually, we come around when we are humbled by God and do offer a sincere, “I’m sorry.”

But it’s not just fallen pastors who ask for forgiveness. All of us find ourselves in need of forgiveness from someone we know. Whether it was a harsh word we spoke, an action we took, something foolish we said and we didn’t mean to, an act that caused harm, or any number of things – we all will end up saying those two words at some point, and hopefully in the right way.

In this post, I’d like to focus on those of us who ask for forgiveness. Let’s look at a few things that might impact us before or during our act of asking someone to forgive us.

1. Our repentance

When we sin, the first place we should go and ask forgiveness is to God. God requires us to be holy before Him. We are to repent and walk in holiness. Am I saying we are to be perfect? Nope. I am saying that whatever stage we are in past our sin, we are willing to toss it aside and cast it before God, asking Him for help.

Repentance is turning away from the sin you committed. Let me give you am different example. Imagine a husband is an alcoholic. The problem is not drinking, but drinking to chronic excess. It has made things terrible at home and at work. The morning after he wakes up, he feels remorse and asks his wife for forgiveness, only to return to a drunken state the next day. Is that repentance? No, it’s remorse. Repentance would be casting his sin before God, turning to someone for help and doing what it took to get help. His wife would likely never believe his “I’m sorry” as long as he was constantly drinking.

Now, if he got help, support and guidance for a while and was doing well, then great. What if he fell off the proverbial wagon? I would hope his wife would be understanding for that moment and help him back on his feet and back to those who were helping him. Is there ever a time when enough is enough? When someone seems irresponsible and lacking in contriteness? Sure – people will be known by their fruits.

But it’s a difficult call as to when to give up on someone. But each of us are responsible for our own sin and the consequences they bear. We are responsible for what we do before God. It is great to be accountable to people and surround yourself with help if you need it. If you’re sorry for your actions, make sure you learn from them.

2. Why are we apologizing?

What is our motive for apologizing? There are a lot of bad reasons to apologize to someone. When we are young and sorrybartplaying with a friend or sibling and we take away their toy, we get in trouble. What does Mom say? “Tell them you’re sorry or you’re going to get a spanking!” Out of our mouth comes an apology motivated by fear. I guess we learned to say “I’m sorry” under duress.

Are we saying we’re sorry to save face? To keep a job? To justify our sin? Because that’s what we were taught? So we can continue on with our sin secretly? So others will think well of us? Just to calm the other person down?

Take time to search your heart, pray and read the Scriptures about forgiveness. Ask yourself, “why am I actually apologizing?”

3. Does this person understand why I’m apologizing? Do I fully understand why?

Sometimes when we go to someone to ask for forgiveness, they may not understand why we’re there. We may perceive we have wronged them, but they may not see it that way. In fact, they may not even have known we had said or done anything wrong to them. Even if that’s the case, explain it. It might be a good teaching opportunity. It might help you get to know them better. Best of all, it will open communication with them, especially since you thought you harmed them and you might not have in the first place.

The more dangerous thing is when we have sinned against someone, but we don’t fully understand how badly we have hurt them. Sometimes we do not understand the full implication or consequences of the sin we committed. At the same time, we may have done something to someone and didn’t realize we have done it. That’s even worse. The only way we can know is if they or someone else tells us.

Either way, don’t get angry if they show emotion at how badly you hurt them. Just listen. You’re there to apologize, not get angry at their reaction. If they are hurt, listen. Tell them you didn’t understand how badly you had hurt them. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t just about the words, it’s about the healing of a relationship.

4. Above all else, be sincere by showing love and grace

The words, “I’m sorry” have probably come to sound as meaningless to most people as the words, “I love you.” Have you ever had one of your kids (or if you can remember being a kid) say to you “I’m sorry” in that dragged out tone that tells you they are anything but sorry?

sorrycoupThese two words ought to be spoken with the full import of the sin you committed against that person. It should be wrapped in the compassion knowing that you hurt them. It should be shrouded in the love and grace of Christ, hoping to restore a relationship that has been harmed. And it should always be rooted in the reminder of the forgiveness that Christ showed us.

Lastly, do it in person if at all possible. If you can’t, write a letter. Don’t cheapen an apology by texting it or sending a Facebook inbox message. If you are separated by miles and think a phone call will do, then try that. But face to face is the best policy.

Asking for forgiveness is a difficult thing. But when we judge our own motives, do it with the right heart, and express it with love and kindness, it can always be easier.

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.


Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Johnny Cash, “Unchained”

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in sorrow, youtube | Posted on 23-03-2013


I’ve learned that no matter where you are in life, there’s a Johnny Cash song to go along with it.

Recently, I’ve caused trouble to people very close to me. Very close. And this song does justice to how I feel. So, in deference and all respect to Cindy Holman’s music posting style, I’m posting “Unchained” by Johnny Cash so this person will know that I’m human and afraid and vulnerable. And that I’m weak. Most of all, I’m hoping to overcome my chains.

Unchained, by Johnny Cash

I have been ungrateful,
I’ve been unwise.
Restless from the cradle,
Now I realize,
It’s so hard to see the rainbow,
Through glasses dark as these.
Maybe I’ll be able,
From now on, on my knees.

Oh, I am weak.
Oh, I know I am vain.
Take this weight from me,
Let my spirit be unchained.

Old man swearin’ at the sidewalk,
I’m overcome.
Seems that we’ve both forgotten,
Forgotten to go home.
Have I seen an angel?
Oh, have I seen a ghost?
Where’s that rock of ages,
When I need it most?

Oh, I am weak.
Oh, I know I am vain.
Take this weight from me,
Let my spirit be unchained.

Apologizing To Whom?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, apology, divorce, ministry, pastoring, repentance, sorrow, theology | Posted on 16-05-2010


Found an interesting article yesterday written by the former editor of Contemporary Christian Magazine. It had been three years after Amy Grant’s divorce and the magazine wanted her to apologize for what she had done.

The editor, who was being asked by the publisher to write the article and ask for her apology, questioned the move.

An exchange from the article between him and the publisher:

“Who does she need to apologize to, Gerald?”

“Her fans. Us at CCM. And everybody she failed.”

The article is worth your time. But the topic behind it is also worth careful thought.

When one falls, to whom are they apologizing? David clearly stated after his sin with Bathsheba that he had sinned against God and God alone. However, it would seem that genuine sorrow and offering of a sincere sign of that sorrow to those directly offended would be appropriate.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I apologized to Cynthia for what I had done. I apologized to my daughters. I even wrote a letter to individual members of my church and told them I was sorry I let them down.

Was apologizing to the church for my adultery necessary? I did not commit adultery against them. I did lie to them, yes, and I apologized for that. But I had many tell me I needed to apologize to them for my adultery.

My sin was made public very quickly. By Cynthia, her family, and by the church. I don’t know if there’s a way around that. Pastors are public figures and when they lie and cheat, sin like that tends to get made public. However, there has to be a time when it stops being discussed by those who were not directly involved in the sin. When the sin itself and the discussion of it turns into gossip and unhealthy talk.

One could argue that my blog is the furtherance of this discussion. A fair point. But I don’t view it that way. I’ve tried to handle my story in a way that is from my viewpoint and how I perceived them. I’ve kept everything anonymous so that those involved wouldn’t be further effected.

There’s a time to discuss sin and situations when it can help others understand seriousness of sin. And there’s a time when it’s simply unhealthy, destructive gossip that seeks to tear down others.

For Amy Grant, I think the editor had a good point. Did she owe her fans an apology for divorcing? Was her private life the business of her fans? Probably not.

My situation was different in many ways. My personal holiness affected my public ministry. I did owe the church an apology for my failing in that way. Many were hurt. An article by Christianity Today states, When a pastor falls sexually, his church responds like a wife betrayed by her husband, experts say.‘”

I am still in the process of asking myself the same questions I am presenting to you in this blog. Hopefully, someone will read this post and give me some interesting viewpoints on the matter.

Maybe I’m wrong. But that’s what this blog has been about since day one. The exchange of ideas. Whether it’s about Amy Grant or me, I’d be happy to hear it.