Kicking The Dog (or how to say you’re sorry)

I watched a sermon online over the weekend that reminded me of a saying from my years in Biblical counseling.

Apologies don’t contain conditional language.

In the sermon, which I can’t find now, the pastor mentioned four types of apologies from a source he’d studied. For the sake of explanation, and because I can’t find the sermon or his source, I will combine the first two into the term conditional apologies.

Conditional apologies contain words like “if” or “but” which defer the blame away from the person and place it back onto the recipient. In a way, it becomes the harmed person’s fault for being harmed.

Consider the parable (I am making this up) of two friends walking a dog on a busy sidewalk. Person A is holding the leash and Person B is walking while texting another friend to meet them.

Without noticing Person A and Dog A have stopped to avoid a bicyclist, Person B slams his leg into the dog and stumbles. Embarrassed and frustrated, Person B says:

“I’m sorry I kicked your dog BUT you shouldn’t have let him run under my feet.”


“I’m sorry IF I kicked your dog. I didn’t see her.”

See how silly adding a condition to an apology can be? In the first example, Person B turns the blame back on Person A fully by saying it is her fault for letting the dog trip him. In the second example, Person B deflects and doesn’t fully admit to kicking the dog.

In real life, Person B would never harm the dog but is embarrassed and is bad at apologies.

A better scenario would be to not trip over the dog. However, once that happens consider these options:

“I’m sorry.”

See that? There are no conditions, explanations, or deflections. Another option would be the additional apology. This apology is not always necessary but can be nice.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll be more careful.”

“I’m sorry, I love you.”

Those are all good. You might also pet the dog and say “I’m sorry, here’s a treat. Thank you for not biting me.”

I’ve mentioned the Lord’s Prayer before. Immediately following the prayer, Mathew 6:14-15 says your sins will not be forgiven if you do not forgive others. Luke 6:37 carries a similar message when it says “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

In scripture, forgiveness is an imperative. So, regardless of whether the person offers a conditional apology, a normal apology or an additional apology, you should readily forgive them.

Your own forgiveness may depend on it!

Photo 147233083 © Igor Mojzes |







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