Abusers do Apologize…. sort of


I saw this meme on Facebook today and one of the responses was “70 times 7”, which is a quote from Scripture (Matthew 18:22). This is one of those verses, taken by itself, which is a reason Christians stay in abusive relationships longer than non-Christians.

I have, in the past, seen comments that say Narcissists don’t apologize, abusers never say they are sorry… this isn’t true. There is such a thing as an abusive apology. Abusers often apologize after the abuse, during the honeymoon stage of the cycle. They’ll buy elaborate gifts to go with their apologies, and then as the cycle moves around, they’ll repeat their abuse (often worse) and then apologize again. And those expensive gifts given in remorse? They are held against the victims: “You accepted that gift, you forgave me, you can’t hold my actions against me anymore.” “Why can’t you let that go? I said I was sorry and you claimed to forgive me.”

My ex often included horrible self-recrimination in his apologies. He would self-flagellate so I would end up reassuring him, it took the focus off his actions and turned it around so I was comforting him.

“It wasn’t that bad, you’re not a horrible person, it’s okay.”

The apology became something completely different. His apologies always seemed sincere. It was after years of repeated behavior before I recognized that his apologies were just empty words. Those empty words stopped having any value or importance because his actions never matched his words. He could apologize in one breath, blame me in the next and repeat the action mere hours later. He was not truly remorseful, he was only speaking words to shut me up.

His words had another affect. He convinced others that he was remorseful, that he wanted to change. His “regret” was an act to convince others he wasn’t what he appeared to be or, more precisely, who I said he was. Before I even spoke about the abuse to others, he had painted a picture of me being unforgiving, resentful and set against him. Then they came to me and did his work for him – they tried to talk me into returning to the relationship, into giving him a “second” chance.

second chance bullet

A falsely sorrowful person looks just like a regular one on the surface. We have to look past the apology, past the regret to see the sincerity.

And the original verse, to forgive 70×7? That’s true too, but we don’t forgive for them, we forgive for us. The abuser isn’t going to stop because we want them to, or because we leave. It’s still on us to forgive, because when we forgive, we begin to heal.


7 thoughts on “Abusers do Apologize…. sort of

  1. Interesting fact… Israel was commanded to give the land a sabbath year’s rest. Every seven years they were not to plant or harvest their fields. After 490 years, they had never done it even once. Then, God had the Babylonians attack Judah, and they went into exile for 70 years — they were unrepentant. God was patient for 70 times 7 years, not eternally forgiving of unrepentant sin.
    Luke 17:3 tells us “if your brother repent, forgive him.”
    The Proverbs tell us that “he that repeateth a matter, separateth friends.” There is a lot of depth in the scripture about these things, but current church culture is steadfast and stubborn in staying shallow. It isn’t only about forgiveness and mercy. God is a god of justice and righteousness too. God didn’t just provide His Son as a sacrifice; He *demanded* that sacrifice.
    I’m not suggesting that anyone be vengeful. Vengeance belongs to God. I’m only saying that the strategy of automatic forgiveness is not wise. When someone says ’70 x 7″, they are showing that they don’t have that wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Why can’t you let that go? I said I was sorry and you claimed to forgive me.”
    Sounds so sickeningly familiar. This is what was sent to me after they’d said the word “sorry” and then continued to act in exactly the same way: “You promised to let go of the past, not to talk any more about what you believed was unfair or unrighteous because you said you had forgiven and were moving on.”

    Liked by 1 person

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