How NOT to Make Confession of Your Faults to Others

Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas, two NBA Hall of Famers, recently reconciled after a long-standing feud.

Their dispute dated back to the late 1980s when the LA Lakers and Detroit Pistons played each other in two consecutive NBA finals.

Johnson further admitted in a book co-authored with Larry Bird–another Hall of Famer who played for the Boston Celtics–that he helped keep Thomas off the 1992 US Olympic Dream Team.

Who takes issue with a such a moving scene? What’s the deal? On the one hand, I hope this emotional exchange results in genuine, lasting reconciliation. It certainly appears sincere.

On the other hand, it contains a flaw that often mars effective apology making–what a lawyer friend of mine refers to as an “abortive confession.” It fails to deliver because of one tiny word.

Did you catch it in the video? Johnson started well for sure. “You are my brother. Let me apologize . . . (so far so good, but then) IF I hurt you.”

One little word at the very least tainted the efficacy of Johnson’s confession.

Other words can have the same effect–like “but” and “maybe.” Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, explains:

The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt. The most common way to do this is to say, “I’m sorry if I’ve done something to upset you.” The word if ruins this confession, because it implies that you do not know whether or not you did wrong. … Clearly, that is no confession at all. It is a superficial statement designed to get someone to stop bothering you or to transfer fault for breaking a relationship. Small wonder that genuine forgiveness rarely follows such words (127).

Perhaps that last statement overstates the case somewhat. God can heal wounds between estranged parties through flawed means. We wish the best for these two men, of course.

But Sande’s point keeps in step with Jesus’s emphasis in Matthew 7:5: First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Abortive confessions fail to remove adequately the logs of our own offenses. Removing specks from the eyes of others with impaired vision is a dangerous procedure.

For additional help in making an effective apology see The Seven A’s of Confession.

Question: When have you been on the receiving end of an effective apology? What made it contribute to lasting reconciliation?


Run, Don't Walk, in This Race

I used to be a runner. Well, not really. More like a lumberer actually. In previous decades of my adult life I did jog for exercise. Hard to believe, but I actually competed in a 5K once, many moons ago. I took second place in the Faster Pastor division there in Winter Park. Of course, I think only two of us entered. I still have a picture of me outrunning a teenage girl at the finish line. Nothing seemed more mortifying to me than to have that girl beat me to the end of that race. I nearly had a heart attack right on the spot.

Now I walk for exercise. Far more dignified for a sixty year old with aging knees and too little time for working out. I like it better. Besides, Nancy doesn’t care to race. We just talk about our day and enjoy covering our four-street neighborhood.

However, if I read my New Testament right, and I hope I do, there is one place among others in which I must always be willing to run the race. And that is in making peace within the body of Christ, my church family. Hebrews 12:14 says this: Strive for peace with everyone. The Greek reads like this: Peace strive with all. The object comes before the verb (an imperative or command) for emphasis.

So where does this all fit in with the notion of running? It has to do with the particular word the writer uses for the English strive. It’s the word “dioko” which means to pursue, seek after, or to aspire to something. A literal cognate of the verb includes the word picture of running fast towards some goal or object. The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the word in Isaiah 5:11.

Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
See those words “run after.” That’s how the ESV translates the same Greek word in Heb. 12:14 translated “strive.” The imagery speaks volumes. In the body of Christ the gospel of Christ will compel the follower of Christ to make haste (every eager effort as another version puts it) to pursue the peace of Christ with the people of Christ. And please note, we cannot afford to be selective. You can’t determine that some believers warrant your vigorous pursuit of peace while others don’t. The exhortation pertains to all. Strive for peace with everyone.
Do you find yourself at odds with someone in the body of Christ? Be careful now. You might be tempted to excuse yourself on the basis of what that person has or hasn’t done in the pursuit of peace. What about you? In your honest evaluation of your efforts to close the gap and build a bridge of peace between you and that person have you run like the wind in pursuit of reconciliation with the same zeal you might run to a gourmet meal or a vacation in Idaho?
If not, it’s time to put on your peacemaking sneakers and go for a run in the race for unity and harmony by getting back into fellowship with your estranged brother or sister. The One who ran to the cross for you and me to make reconciliation between us and a holy God would want it that way.
Let us strive for peace within the body at OGC.

A Good Day for Tiger Woods


After reading this morning’s headline about the golfer’s exit from golf for now and his statement confessing infidelity in his marriage, I clicked on his website. His signature (pictured above), attached to his statement, is the only image in the main window. You can read what he has to say here.

While this news may not make for a good day for the PGA tour and golf lovers everywhere, Tiger Woods may end up regarding it one of the best days of his life.

I say that because of a verse from Scripture like Proverbs 28:13.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Woods’ confession may well possess all the components of what Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, calls the Seven A’s of Confession.

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)  – he has made this statement for all the world to see.
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs) – there appear to be no such clauses in his confession.
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions) – he names his actions infidelity and rightly so.
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone) – he begins the statement, “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt.”
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution) – stepping away from golf indefinitely certainly qualifies for this.
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions) – the attitude appears altered, but only time will tell if actions change as well.
  7. Ask for forgiveness – he says the very words in his statement, “I ask forgiveness.”

Ken Sande often adds an eighth A under the seventh, namely, allow for time. It will take perhaps a very long while for Tiger to win back his wife’s trust. May we wish him well in that endeavor. Reconciliation/restoration of marriages honors God, the ultimate peacemaker.

Only one more thing could turn this good day into a very, very good day for Tiger Woods. If it turns out somewhere along the line that Psalm 32:1-5 applies to him as a result of this fall from grace, he will learn to call this his best of days.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

The biggest thing missing from Tiger Woods’ statement is any reference to God and the offense his sin makes before the Most High.

Oh that he, that we, might know the supreme blessedness of “you forgave the iniquity of my sin” through the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ stood in his, our place, for things like infidelity and every other sin that condemns us and puts us rightly under His wrath.

The day we obtain mercy, not just from our wives, or children, or the public, but from God, that indeed is the best of all days in our life.