No one likes being disciplined. No one likes having to face the harsh consequences of bad decisions. We’ve all been there too, staring at the floor while a parent or teacher scolds us or feeling the rush of shame sweep across our face when we’re caught in a lie we thought we had gotten away with. It has happened to us all, but just because we’ve all done it doesn’t mean we’ve all handled it the same way.
When it’s time to face the music, you can go about it in one of two ways. You can get mad…or you can get sad.
Unfortunately most people like the former. We raise our voice, we point out others’ flaws, we point and shout wildly. But really all we’re doing is making fools of ourselves; we’re not resolving anything. All the shouting in the world won’t change the fact that we did wrong and were caught. We like to get mad when we’re caught because it makes us (the guilty party) feel like we’re being persecuted. We get to be on the defense, crusading for a noble cause…when really we’re guilty as sin and everyone knows it. We’re just embarrassing ourselves. It’s just self-deception and, as mentioned, doesn’t resolve the problem.
The only way to fix things is to apologize and never do it again. Granted, there are some things you can’t “fix.” You can’t uncook a bad stew. But you can still repent to the one you wronged, even if the “only” one you wronged was God Himself. But saying sorry is only part of the solution. You also need to recognize what you did was more than just “hurtful,” it was “wrong.” Saying “sorry” admits your action hurt someone else. Anyone can do that and even the most adamant defender in himself will still say “sorry” to the person who feels they’ve been slighted. It doesn’t take much to say sorry, and on it’s own the word doesn’t mean much either. It’s just a word.
If you want to really correct a bad decision, you also need to admit (to yourself) that your action hurt you (spiritually). It’s only when that happens that the person will make a commitment never to do the action again. Getting mad when you get caught will never lead to that introspection. That’s why people who do wrong, and say sorry (even sincerely) often go back and do the wrong again and again and again. It’s because they haven’t fully considered the danger their action poses to themselves.
So instead of getting caught, getting mad, and tossing out the word “sorry.” Why not consider what your bad decision does to the other person, and what it does to yourself? Don’t get mad, get sad. I think that’s what Paul is talking about…
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
2 Corinthians 7:10
It’s not just sorrow, but Godly sorrow that leads to “repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” Godly sorrow is contrasted with “the sorrow of the world” which leads to condemnation. The people of the world express sorrow over their mistakes, but the world continues to be a haven for unrighteousness. Why? Because the people of the world never make the decision to stop sinning. The people of the world will offer a word (“sorry”) to those it wrongs along the way, while continuing on its way doing wrong (and saying sorry) to others. Worldly sorrow is superficial; it recognizes that my bad action hurt someone and I feel bad about that, but not so bad that I’ll stop doing it. Why not stop? “Because it feels good” we say, or “because it’s my life and I’ll do what I want” we say. Pick one; the world is full of reasons why sinning is the life they chose, as opposed to following God. Selfishness, not humility or Divine service, motivates every action of the world.
Godly sorrow, on the other hand, leads to the right kind of repentance; it brings about the kind of repentance that leads to salvation. Godly sorrow leads to a repentance that will “not be repented of” (which means “not regretted” or “not to look back on, fondly”). Only when you really and truly repent will you stop the cycle of “sin, say sorry, and sin some more.” Only when you really consider, not only the pain your action has done to someone else, but also the damage it does to your own soul, will you say “no more” and really mean it.
When that happens you’ll truly repent, turn away from the sin, never look back.