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How Do You Know When Someone Is Truly Sorry?

By Leslie Vernick

It’s not always easy to tell if someone is truly repentant. They may say the words, I’m sorry, or cry buckets of tears, but how do we know if their tears are for the pain they’ve caused or for the pain they are in?

The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). I believe that it is crucial that the body of Christ learn to distinguish between the two especially if we are a people helper working with individuals in destructive relationships or ourselves are in one.

Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self.

The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were.

Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.

  • I can’t believe I did such a thing.
  • Why is this happening to me?
  • Please forgive me – implying, please don’t make me suffer the consequences of my sin.
  • Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)
  • I’m so sorry (sad).
  • I’m a horrible person.
  • I wish I were dead.
  • I hate myself.

Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5). After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide. It is natural to feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain.

However, it’s crucial to not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind of sorrow that leads to biblical repentance, especially when you are the victim of someone’s sin or you are ministering to both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.

One-sided forgiveness may be granted, but biblical reconciliation is not possible when there has been no genuine repentance.

Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others.

John the Baptist said to the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sin and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

Below are eight evidences that demonstrate the fruit of genuine repentance.

  • Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.
  • Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).
  • Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.
  • Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.
  • Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.
  • Makes amends for damages.
  • Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.
  • Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long-term help.

In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not sin that ends a marriage.

All couples experience sin. Rather, it is one’s blindness and refusal to acknowledge their sin and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.

Our Walking in Core Strength Group Coaching program just opened its doors. If you’d like more information on how you can learn to manage your own anger or other feelings so that you grow healthier and stronger, even when angry, click here.

Book Giveaway


How Not to Be an *SS: Essays on Becoming a Good & Safe Man

by Andrew J. Bauman

I am a recovering ass.

Of course, at times I still am one, but it's less often. I now recognize my “assness” more quickly, recalibrate, and take action to make amends for my poor behavior. It's important to acknowledge the truth of our mistakes without turning towards self-contempt, shame, or beating ourselves up for the harm we have caused to those we love. Yet, we must take full responsibility for our poor behavior and fully own what we have done and learn to live differently, becoming men who bring life rather than further heartache.

This book is just as much for me as it is for you. I am in the process of learning to become a good and safe man and writing out these truths in this book has helped me immensely. I hope it will help you on your journey to becoming the man you most desire to be.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter! (Giveaway only available to U.S. residents)

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of “Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy” by Leslie Vernick are Pamela C. and Gini F.

Enter For Your Chance to Win

I Feel Guilty I Feel So Good That He’s Gone

By Leslie Vernick

Question: Well, it happened. My husband's response to my boundaries was unexpected. He smacked my jaw, and I was shocked. He has never done that before. We both decided to have some time apart to sort things out. My main concern was missing his help with my 94-year-old mom who has Dementia and is unable to care for herself. But the LORD has given me strength and I have been able to do ok with Mom.

My question is, I feel so much peace while he is gone. I am under no pressure to treat him a certain way, I'm not walking on eggshells and I'm not going to bed at night feeling like I'm not a good wife because I really don't even want to talk about or have sex. I would be ok if we were friends in different places. The mere thought of him coming back gives me anxiety. What do I do? I am constantly praying for God's will to be done because I know my heart is deceitful and selfish. But it feels so great to be free! I feel like it's either my freedom or my marriage.

Answer: I’m glad you’re discovering that it’s easier to take care of your mother alone than living with the uncertainty and stress of his moods and behavior. Yet, you’re struggling with the thought, “Is it okay to feel good that he’s gone?” Your internal anxiety about your new freedom is very common among Christian women. It’s hard for you to wrap your head around the reality that God wants you to feel safe and free from fear, especially fear from someone you are married to.

What People Are Saying About Leslie's Book “Lord, I Just Want To Be Happy”:

I've enjoyed reading this book immensely. Although I haven't stopped at the end of each chapter to answer questions, I plan to re read and do that very thing. It takes time, but I find when I get into a book, I just want to see what it says first, then take the time for personal inventory. Very good read!


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.


Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States