How often must I apologise? 70 times 7? 

  Every Christian knows that when Our Lord was asked how often we should forgive those who offend us, He replied “not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).  In other words, always. Never refuse to forgive. 

However, what about apologies?  Most people struggle to apologise for anything because it means admitting they were wrong about something, or insensitive, unkind to others.  Sadly, that seems to be the norm. Just don’t apologise! But what about those who DO apologise and find their apology either spurned or ignored… Some people prefer to “apologise in kind” – by, for example, offering a small gift, or by some means other than directly saying “sorry”.  Does that count as an apology? And what about those rejected or ignored apologies… should they be repeated indefinitely until reconciliation has taken place? 

We ought, in this thread, to reflect on the root cause of both the inability to forgive wrongs perpetrated against us, and – the other side of that coin – the inability to apologise for inflicting wrongs on others.  Is it true to argue that it is sinful pride which causes us to be unforgiving and unrepentant – or, at least, if not unrepentant, unwilling to admit to the person we’ve hurt that we know we are in the wrong?  Or is there some other reason for our inability or unwillingness to apologise – and do we have to apologise seventy times seven – or is once sufficient? 

The following quotes from saints about the sin of pride are offered to help kick-start the discussion – and feel free to add your own favourite quotes and sermons from the saints, since this thread is chiefly intended to help us move forward in our spiritual life, as we begin this new year.  Nobody stands still in the spiritual life, remember; we either go forward or back.

QUOTES FROM SAINTS…

You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud… The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.  Saint Vincent de Paul

A truly humble person never believes that he can be wronged in anything. Truly, we ought to be shamed to resent whatever is said or done against us; for it is the greatest shame in the world to see that our Creator bears so many insults from His creatures, and that we resent even a little word that is contradictory.  St. Teresa

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. Saint Augustine

45 responses

  1. Can’t resist posting this… If the quotes from the saints don’t kick-start a discussion, maybe this clip will do the trick! Somehow, I doubt if one apology will suffice for this gentleman!

    • Editor,

      That video made me laugh out loud. Love it!

      My initial thought on reading this thread was that the issue I have had with “apologies” are people who refuse to accept apologies. Over the years, I have friends from school refuse to accept apologies, usually by not responding to messages. I find this very sad. Aren’t we obliged to accept an apology , even if we have our doubts about the sincerity of the one apologising?

      I would definitely say that it’s the sin of pride to refuse to apologise. However, are there genuine cases in which a person refuses to apologise because they don’t think they have done anything wrong?

      • Petrus,

        It never ceases to astonish me that people either refuse to accept an apology or fail to respond to one. I cannot imagine any rationale that does not include lack of forgiveness to explain such an attitude.

        As it happens, I had occasion to email an apology to someone to whom I felt I had been unkind, very recently. I had to research to find an email address for this person, as this is not someone with whom I’m in contact at all. I found the email, tested that it was live, received an immediate reply to assure me that it was a working email, sent off my sincere apology and it looks like I’ll receive a reply maybe a month after Hell freezes over 😀

        Now, apart from being puzzled that anyone would do that, it doesn’t bother me. My attitude is that, having been the one in the wrong to begin with, I’ve now sought to put to rights my lack of charity. If it’s rejected and/or ignored, there’s nothing I can do about that.

        So, to answer your question, I do believe that we are obliged to accept an apology – what possible reason, in theology, or in any catechism (!) could there be for refusing to accept an apology – but I don’t (in my own case) feel any obligation to check if it’s been accepted or to repeat it.

        The 70 times 7 exhortation does not, in my view, apply to the number of apologies we are obliged to make. Forgive without counting the cost, certainly, but no obligation to keep asking for forgiveness over and over.

        Your final question about not apologising if someone feels they have done nothing wrong. Well, that seems to me to be a very low bar.

        If someone takes offence (un-Christian in itself, of course) at something I’ve done or said, I do/would always apologise although I would also try to explain that my intention was not to offend (indeed, that’s precisely what I said in the email to which I refer above – nevertheless, what I said was calculated to hurt feelings, so, whatever my intentions, I was wrong to speak so thoughtlessly, and I did, therefore, owe that person an apology.)

        In a case where someone is miffed at offence being taken and doesn’t feel the need to apologise, they can still be a peacemaker by putting some words together along the lines of “I apologise for offending you – sorry about that.”

        To be brutally frank, any alleged Christian who cannot meet that very basic level of human kindness, is never going to reach the heights of sanctity, so if you are one of those committed to never apologising or only doing so when strictly necessary and carefully worded to protect your own feelings, and you’re reading this, gerragrip! Without delay!

  2. Another quesiton, folks. This quote from St Teresa stood out for me:

    “A truly humble person never believes that he can be wronged in anything.”

    How does this square up with the notion of justice? If someone treats me badly, have I just to accept it?

      • Petrus,

        You and me, both. I was just noting that nobody has answered your questions, so I will leave it a bit and if nobody else has a bash, I’ll respond.

    • Petrus,

      St Teresa, we must not forget, is a Doctor of the Church, Foundress of the strictest enclosed Order in the Church, the Carmelite Religious Order. So, she is holding up very high standards for our edification and we should, of course, aim for the heights of sanctity – much easier said than done, though, believe me 😀

      No, if we are suffering an injustice, then we are not obliged to grin and bear it. We are permitted to use all the legitimate means at our disposal to protect our reputation etc. Indeed, there are occasions when we MUST defend ourselves against, for example, false accusations, in order to avoid causing scandal.

      What the great saints do when they say such things, is to remind us of the bottom line: the fact is, there is nothing that can happen to us in this world, no suffering or adversity, that begins to compare with what Our Lord suffered for us. True humility consists of knowing ourselves in that light and in the light of God’s perfection, His goodness. Understanding that, we will be less inclined to take offence and to feel ourselves wronged.

      At least, that’s what I think she means. What do the rest of you think?

      • Editor,

        Understanding that, we will be less inclined to take offence and to feel ourselves wronged.

        I think that is really the first thing to consider, when weighing our response to an injustice: is it really an injustice, or it is that our pride has been wounded?

  3. What I can’t forgive is people who won’t forgive!

    It’s irritating when people receive an apology and then insist on re-hashing the cause of offence in detail. I admire the person who offers a sincere apology; humility in others always makes me wish to emulate them.

    • Therese,

      Apart from pupils trying to get out of detentions, I’ve never had a meaningful apology in my life! And those, obviously, were anything but meaningful. Manipulative, more like 😀

  4. As a first remedy to my pride, last year, I added something to Cardinal Merry del Val’s Litany of Humility in the back of the ’62 Missal:

    “From my pride, deliver me, Jesus.” (In fact, I start off with that)

    St. Augustine calls pride “an invisible wine,” I think, which to me means that we will have a much harder time being aware of it in itself, than being aware of its effects on our thoughts, words and deeds.

    This morning I was meditating on certain aspects of the Nativity, and the fact that Our Infinite Majesty essentially made an act of infinite humility, by not only taking flesh, but by being born in the basest of circumstances.

    It also occurred to me that this act of humility was a completely supernatural act; a complete denial of the world and its values. I then wondered if this would hold true for our acts of humility: i.e. the greater the humility with which we perform something, or accept humiliation, the greater the supernatural value of it.

    • RCA Victor,

      You’ve gone all profound on us, now. That’s some comment. I’ve already booked a month’s retreat in the back of beyond to see if I can come up with a suitably deep response…

      For now, all I can say is… you were meditating on the Nativity this morning, when Christmas was two weeks ago?

      Seriously, you have given us lots of food for thought, especially in your final paragraph. My gut instinct response to your concluding sentence is yes – surely, the greater the act of humility, the greater the supernatural value…

      But, then, what do I know? Just because I’m Wonder Woman…

      • Editor,

        As a friend of mine once said, “Well……that’s a deep subject!”

        Anyway, it seems Our Lord’s life on earth was book-ended by infinite acts of humility: His lowly birth being the first, His ignominious death on the Cross being the last.

  5. I mind reading a story about St. Bernadette in which she said: “Humility is like good perfume; the wearer is unaware of its scent”. This sums it up for me, however, Petrus, in the interest of truth I don’t believe one should accept injustice. It’s not just a matter of defending oneself if falsely accused, but of remaining “in God” because he is Truth itself.

    St. John says something similar when he says that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all; if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we will have fellowship with one and other and His Son, Jesus, will save us from our sins”.

    • Crofterlady,

      You have joined RCA Victor in going all profound on us!

      Your response to Petrus’ question about humility/injustice, is very thoughtful. Very.

      I’ll be back shortly with my own tuppence worth – because Petrus’ question is very important indeed. What you say makes sense. Which makes it all the more of a challenge for me to say my piece… Just let me think…

  6. St Bernard says that humility is the guardian of virtues, a prime example in following this great virtue is Our Lady herself.

    https://catholic-restoration.com/2017/07/17/humility-of-mary-by-saint-alphonsus-liguori/

    I think of Our lady at Calvary seeing her Son, the Second Person of the Trinity slowly dying towards an ignominious death on the Cross. Well it does not take too much imagination to think on her humility, for she could be seen as sharing in His Humiliation.

    It is so easy to be prone to pride and how easy it is to fall into it.

  7. I think the best way to practice apologizing is to apologize to God, in Confession, as often as possible, with perfect or imperfect contrition, since we have offended Him far more than we have offended any of our fellow creatures.

      • No, certainly not, but it makes good practice! Also, if a wrong done to our neighbor is the subject of the Confession, then perhaps the priest will include in his penance an apology to the wronged party.

        • RCA Victor,

          I’ve certainly known a priest to ask a penitent if it is possible to correct defamatory information given to friends about A.N. Other but since the subject matter was true, it wasn’t possible to correct it. My suggestion was to simply make a point of saying something good about the person asap to the same people who had heard the defamatory information. Why they won’t let us wimmin be priests (or at least hear Confessions 😀 ) I will never understand!

  8. One more way to work on humility is to ask for it when praying the Joyful Mysteries. The virtue of humility is associated with the First Joyful Mystery, so before you start that decade, say:

    “We offer unto Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, this First Joyful Mystery, in honor of the Annunciation, and we ask of Thee, through the intercession of Thy Holy Mother, for the virtue of humility.”

    (Second Mystery: charity
    Third Mystery: poverty of spirit
    Fourth Mystery: purity of mind and heart
    Fifth Mystery: obedience)

    • RCA Victor,

      I know people who say those prayers at the start of each of the Mysteries but it has never appealed to me. I can’t really explain why… I mean, I’m all for praying for the virtues, but just not at the beginning of each Mystery. Could be that I’m a creature of habit and not a creature who is keen to get into new habits, not sure. Feel free to express a view but go easy…

      • Editor,

        Speaking as your fellow creature….I say it’s all Athanasius’ fault! After all, it was he who, several years ago, wrote on this very blog about the virtues associated with each Mystery. I was very attracted to that idea and so looked it up. Turns out St. Louis de Montfort taught the same thing.

        At this point, it’s just automatic – even when I’m saying a turbo-Rosary!

          • Editor

            It was a target you pinned on me last time, if I recall correctly. I still remember the chair you bought me for Christmas and then took the huff because I refused to plug it in!

            RCA Victor

            I pray for the virues associated with each of the mysteries of the rosary but I don’t say a particular prayer for each virtue before saying the decade. Contemplating the virtue and desiring it is sufficient. Everyone is different when it comes to this but either option is perfectly ok.

            As regards the thread topic, I think it is clearly incumbent upon all to be able to forgive when someone says sorry and to have the humility to ask forgiveness when we have offended others by our own fault. It’s pride that refuses forgiveness and it’s pride that forbids asking forgiveness.

            And if you don’t agree with me then I’m sorry to say I will never forgive you!!

            Now, my fellow “creatures”, I’m off again to indulge my creature comfort – chocolate.

  9. Sometimes it takes a while to realise that forgiveness is what is neededto enable one to let go of resentment. Some years ago there was a lady in our village who I counted as pretty close friend. I spent a lot of time with her, had her to recover in our home after major surgery, and she came on holiday with us to S Africa when my husband was working there. She also attended both our sons weddings. Then it came to her daughters wedding and she told me All about the plans for it and I was looking forward to it. However she did not invite us and never mentioned it or explained why.

    It is a comparatively small matter but it affected me very much. Disappointment, bewilderment etc eventually turned to anger and then to a simmering resentment. Being a small village I had to see her around and she would always greet me as if nothing had happened.

    Now it came to New Years Eve which we have always spent with a small group of friends. Just before Christmas one of this group told me she had invited S to join us . I realised at that time just how much I was still affected by my resentment as I said through gritted teeth that it was fine to invite her, of course it was.

    So eventually I realised I had to let go of this anger so took myself off to Confession and poured it all out. The relief was instant. I felt that I had put down a huge burden and the anger just melted away.
    I have seen this lady a couple of times since and while I doubt we will ever be close again, it was ok.

    So I have gone on about this at length because it is an example of how unresolved anger and lack of forgiveness can eat way at us and and allow bitterness to erode our souls, and over such a trivial matter as this.

    • Elizabeth,

      I saw your comment this morning, just before I departed for far flung places, and so, I am dismayed to note that nobody has responded. I know that you are an ardent defender of the blog, keen for it not to close, but perhaps you get my point? You’ve written a thoughtful comment, explaining a real life situation of your own, and not one single soul has had a word to say about it all day. Allow me…

      I can’t imagine that anybody would have experienced a different reaction from your own, in that situation. If I had had a person I regarded as a friend actually come to my home to recover from surgery (WOW!) invited her to various family or personal celebrations and then been given neither an invitation nor an explanation as to why I was not invited to a major celebration in her family, I think I’d have been surprised, to say the least, very taken aback. I can’t see any excuse whatsoever for such bad manners and insensitivity.

      Indeed, for many years, we had”family friends”, former neighbours, whom we invited to everything, baptisms. weddings, landmark birthdays, the lot. Then one of my siblings pointed out that he’s never received any invitation to any of their special days over all the years we’ve known them – had any of the rest of us? Answer: no. So, it does seem that there are people with the proverbial brass necks who are takers and not givers in this world. I take the view that they are the ones who lose out – in fact, having spent some time in your company, Elizabeth, with your lovely husband, I can testify in any court of public opinion that S & her family are the ones who missed out.

      I don’t think I would have considered the anger associated with that situation, which amounts to hurt and annoyance at her blatant bad manners and unkind thoughtlessness, as matter for Confession; on the other hand, pouring it all out to a friend might cross the line into lack of charity – so perhaps you were right to mention it in Confession… I’d not want to interfere with anyone’s conscience anyway; thus, if you felt it merited Confessions, so be it, just as, if your conscience tells you that my wonderful reply here merits a box of chocolates, check at the end of this post on the basis of eat now, pay later… 😀

    • Elizabeth,

      I don’t think the story you relate is a comparatively small or trivial matter at all! In fact, without trying to stir up your old feelings, it is incomprehensible to me that this person failed to invite you to her daughter’s wedding. The only explanations I could fathom are that it was one of those “tradition vs. Novus Ordo” situations, or, perhaps she thought you didn’t approve of her daughter’s fiance.

      I know what you mean about the deep relief of confessing a festering anger/resentment. Many years ago I descended into a pit of anger and resentment by blaming a young lady for ending our engagement. I stewed in that pit for seven years! Then I finally realized that it was my fault because I had hurt her feelings very badly. However, I didn’t take it to Confession until many years later, because I had not yet returned to the Church. When I finally confessed this I felt the same same relief you did.

  10. Elizabeth, I know what you mean as a similar thing happened to me. Resentment was beginning to build up big time when I remembered a verse from Scripture which my mother used to quote: “Never let the sun go down on your anger”. So off, with some trepidation, I went to speak to my friend to find out the whys and wherefores. It turned out her reasons were innocuous and I felt a right charlie, I can tell you! The moral of the story is: never let things build up but get them out in the open!

    As the great apostle tells us:
    1 Corinthians 4:5

    “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

    Happy New Year to everyone!

    • Well, Saint Helen, thanks for that, except you don’t give any details. I suspect if you had invited that friend to recover from surgery in your home etc. and then found yourself uninvited, without explanation, in the circumstances recounted above by Elizabeth, you may have had to go to Confession – for attempted murder 😀

  11. I dare say Christ Himself taught us the best response as regards ‘those who trespass against us’, when He said….’Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’… Not easy to emulate, of course, we can but try.

    Some of you may have read ‘The Death Peddlers – War On The Unborn’ by Father Paul Marx + R.I.P. Father relates how he attended an ‘abortion Symposium’ in L.A. back in 1971. His epilog (U.S. spelling) which he wrote in 1998, has this very chilling concluding statement:-

    …..’As I look back upon that infamous abortion Symposium of 1971, I ask myself a question. Were these elite pro-abortionists from the legal, medical, political, social work and academic professions naive about the ramifications of their proposals, or did they realize that they were advancing the slaughter of helpless, innocent human beings? Many of the surviving Symposium participants have continued to trumpet the Culture of Death, despite such horrors as third-trimester abortions, wholesale sex-selection, forced abortions in China, fetal experimentations, stored embryos, and now infanticide and euthanasia.

    I am convinced that these death peddlers knew exactly what they were doing – and therein lies the real horror’…

    In one of many e-mail exchanges between Father Marx and myself, I quoted the ‘forgive them’ as above and stated that in our times, perhaps we needed to go the extra mile and say ..’Father forgive them, though they DO know what they do’… I got a nice reply from Father, saying he could only agree with my sentiments.

    • Pat McKay,

      With all due respect to yourself and Father Paul Marx, if Pope Francis is not allowed to change the words of the Our Father, neither are you! It’s the one prayer that Our Lord himself gave us, so it is puzzling that so many people think they can improve on it. I think we have to assume that the meaning of “they know not what they do” is that if these child killers really knew, as God knows, the gravity of what they are doing, they wouldn’t do it, that they are depriving a child not just of human life but of eternal life with God. Their minds are darkened with the effects of original sin, and they have allowed their consciences to become dead, so they don’t understand this. That’s what I think that part of the Our Father means, but whatever, I don’t think we should assume that we can improve on it when it was given to us by Christ himself.

  12. Apologize and accept apologies, by all means. In forgiving one gives up all notion of being revenged on the other person.

    Even when an apology is accepted, one is not always obliged to see the offending party restored to the same degree of friendship or affection – for example, our Lord said it is lawful for a spouse to not accept an unfaithful spouse back.

    When the other party has done something infamous or hurtful and will not acknowledge it, one gives them to the Sacred Heart and is right to minimize opportunities to be injured anew. Creating distance – physical or psychological – is never to be done in an unkind or aloof way.

    • There’s an auld Scots saying – ‘when they start striking matches aff ye, it’s time ye caught yersel oan’.

      We’ve often heard….’well, I’m sorry you see it that way’…. Sometimes the only thing the offenders are ‘sorry’ about is that you realised you were being taken for a mug – and ‘got out of their midst’.

    • Wurdesmythe,

      I didn’t think of that aspect – that “one is not always obliged to see the offending party restored to the same degree of friendship or affection”.

      That’s really given me something to think about. I was thinking along the lines of “forgive and forget” but not restoring the friendship to the same degree etc. means we are not forgetting. That’s interesting.

  13. I just could not find a blog to put this on a lot have ceased ….what are we coming to ?>…….ITS FRIGHTENING ……..what a waste of public money that could be used for more urgent things what is going on ?…horrific

    • Wendy,

      ALL of the issues relating to our humanity – abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism – all of them may be posted on the Pro-Life thread if there is not topic thread running. There is sometimes (as you know) a topic thread dedicated to some aspect of these moral issues, if there is something relevant in the news, but, generally speaking, we should just use the permanent Pro-Life ACTION! thread.

      We’ll leave it this time. You’re forgiven – even without an apology 😀

  14. The comments on this thread have been really interesting to read, especially because I’m aware of someone I know who is going through a hard time, feeling she ought to apologise to a friend who is always very blunt with her but because she answered her back recently, she now feels she ought to apologise.

    I say, no, don’t. I don’t see any need to apologise at all. I feel that the supposed friend needs to be called out on her lack of charity, so I hope other bloggers agree.

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