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Chapman explores languages of apology at Monday night’s Empower

February 23rd, 2021 / By: Jane Rodgers | Managing Editor / comments

Chapman explores languages of apology at Monday night’s Empower

Christian counselor Gary Chapman opened the second evening session of the SBTC Empower evangelism conference Mon., Feb. 22. Photo by Andrew Pearle

IRVINGChristian counselor Gary Chapman opened the second evening session of the Empower evangelism conference Mon., Feb. 22, at the Irving Convention Center with a proclamation of the meaningful life.

“Where does life find its meaning?” Chapman, author of the bestselling The 5 Love Languages® series, asked the crowd assembled online and, socially distanced, in person.  

Chapman answered his question with the word: “relationships”—first with God and then “on the human plane.” Drawing on a long career working with married couples, he said that long-term, healthy marriages and close relationships demand that the people feel loved and appreciated, and that individuals in relationships must “deal effectively with failures.” 

None of us is perfect, Chapman reminded his listeners, offering a biblical perspective on apology and forgiveness illustrated by Scripture and folksy anecdotes.

“In order to deal with our failures, it means we have to learn to apologize and we have to learn to forgive,” Chapman said, referencing Matthew 28:13 and Isaiah 59:2.

Jesus felt strongly about the value of apology, Chapman said, quoting Matthew 3:23, wondering aloud how such commitment to reconciliation might impact churches on Sunday mornings.

Apology is a response learned from our parents, Chapman said, explaining that nearly 10 percent of the population never apologize “for anything,” and calling the adage, “real men don’t apologize,” a sentiment derived more from John Wayne than Scripture.

What followed was material from Chapman’s book When Sorry Isn’t Enough, co-authored by fellow therapist Jennifer Thomas.

Chapman said Thomas and he researched the topic for two years, surveying thousands of people from across the country, trying to determine “what a sincere apology looks like.” Answers fell into five categories, a number Chapman insisted was not intentional.

“I like five, but we weren’t looking for five,” he said of the languages of apology, summarized below, all of which are consistent with the Bible.

“If you discover anything in social research, if it’s true, it will never contradict the Scriptures. It will almost always be illustrated in the Scriptures,” he maintained.

The five languages of apology

  1. Expressing regret, often with the words, “I’m sorry.” Chapman urged, “Please don’t ever use those two words alone. Tell them what you are sorry for.” Avoid adding the word “but,” to your apology to justify or qualify. Chapman illustrated the point with the account of the prodigal son from Luke 15 and the example of David in Psalm 51:17.
  2. Accepting responsibility: “I was wrong. I should not have done that. I take full responsibility.” Recalling a time when he had spoken thoughtlessly to his wife, Chapman said, “Folks, what I said was not a sin. It was just stupid. …I hurt her deeply.” Teaching children to accept responsibility for their actions is “the first step” in teaching them how to apologize, he added. Nor should the confession of sin be omitted, as 1 John 1:9 teaches. The prodigal son admitted his wrongdoing, Chapman recalled, defining confession as “agreeing with God” that something is wrong.
  3. Offering to make restitution: “How can I make it right?” Chapman offered the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 as an example of how properly to make restitution.
  4. Genuinely repenting: what Chapman called, “expressing the desire to change your behavior.” In Acts 2, at Pentecost, Peter calls upon the people to repent and be baptized. “Jesus came preaching forgiveness. So did the early apostles,” Chapman reminded the audience. 
  5. Requesting forgiveness: “Will you forgive me?” This fifth principle was not on Chapman’s “radar,” he admitted. “But some people are waiting for you to ask for their forgiveness,” he said.

Chapman claimed that most people have a primary language of apology, perhaps a combination of the above. We judge the sincerity of an apology by what we think an apology should be.

Despite its importance, “apology alone does not restore a relationship,” he continued. There must be response of biblical forgiveness, modeled in Ephesians 4:32 and 1 John 1:9.

“God does not forgive everyone. Folks, universalism is not taught in the Bible,” he urged. “God forgives people who confess their sins.” 

Nonetheless, “We have to learn to apologize and then forgive,” Chapman said, describing what forgiveness does not do. It does not destroy memory, nor remove pain. It does not rebuild trust, but it opens the “possibility that trust can be reborn.”

When painful memories emerge, “I believe you take it to God,” Chapman said. “Lord, you know what I’m remembering today, and you know what I’m feeling. But I thank you that I forgave them. Now help me do something good today.”

For more information on Chapman’s five languages of love and apology, visit 5lovelanguages.com.