Saying “I’m Sorry”

I'mSorryAfter losing one million USD to a conman in 2004, I said to my wife, “I’m sorry.” Perhaps, I never felt worse in my life because I knew how much I had hurt the person who loved me, and whom I love. It was not primarily the loss of the money, but the fact that I refused to listen to her pleading with me and to her better judgment, because I thought I was investing the hard earned money that she had saved for over 20 years. Then it was all gone in a moment! Plus we went into massive debt. Entirely by God’s mercy and grace alone, God helped us to come out of our financial (and emotional) crisis. Since then we have been enjoying many honeymoons, which is also nothing but the grace of God. Of course, I still annoy her (sometimes intentionally!), and still have to often say, “I’m sorry, dearest.”

But I realize that it is not easy to say, “I’m sorry.” There were times when I could not say so, even though I knew that I was wrong. Likely, I failed or refused to say “I’m sorry” on more occasions than I care to admit. Thank God that she does not hold this against me! Next to the grace of Jesus, this is pure grace.

A caveat is that saying “I’m sorry” should be genuine. Once someone said “I’m sorry” to me. But after that “apology” I felt 10 times worse. As I wondered why, I think the reason is that the apology was done dutifully, formally and correctly, but I did not perceive that it was truly genuine and with brokenness of heart. In fact, I felt that the apology was given with reluctance and with defensiveness. Silence and a refusal to apologize would have truly been much preferred than such an “apology.”

Why am I bringing this up about saying “I’m sorry”? As I have read comment after comment after comment by people who cared to share their pains and hurts on UBFriends, my predominant sentiment has primarily been “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Those who have shared their gut wrenching agonies honestly, openly and transparently are Vitaly, Chris, Brian, Joshua, formershep, MarthaO, Sharon, Joe, AbNial, DavidB, MJ, Phil 2:5, liveforchrist, etc. I have also heard countless other painful stories in private emails and conversations. So many times, my only response to reading and hearing what they have shared with brokenness and vulnerability is “I’m so sorry.”

So it concerns and upsets me when I do not hear “I’m sorry” being expressed by perhaps the more senior leaders of UBF. The most common response I hear very loudly is COMPLETE SILENCE. The second most common response I hear primarily from some older UBF leaders is “UBFriends must be shut down.” Wow!

Other comments I might hear are primarily defensive (if not downright offensive and insensitive): “They should move on with their life.” “They should be thankful.” “They are ungrateful.” “They should forgive.” “They are bitter.” “They are wounded.” (Hello, who caused the wounding!) “We/they did not realize that we/they hurt them. It was not our intention. We only wanted to help them spiritually.” “There is another side to the story!!!” Do such statements have any worth or value whatsoever???

BTW I do not believe that anyone is asking for an apology. Nonetheless, is a genuine “I’m sorry” not the best, if not the only appropriate response to those who have been hurt and spiritually abused? Am I still going to keep hearing through the grapevine that “UBFriends must be shut down”? Will there come a day when a genuinely heartfelt “I’m sorry” is heard?


  1. Hi Ben, thanks for your article. “I’m sorry” are perhaps the most difficult words to say. Before I married, a friend told me the four most important phrases for a husband:

    1) I’m sorry
    2) You’re right
    3) It’s my fault
    4) I love you :)

    Seriously, though, I like your point. I think the book of Job illustrates that simply being sorry when a person is hurting is really the best way to show that you care.

    Saying “I’m sorry” also has no meaning if there is not a clear acknowledgement of what he/she/they is/are sorry about. No facts = no repentance.

    Also, saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t necessarily mean “I’m wrong,” but it does mean, “Help me see where I went wrong.”

    I’m thankful that many people have expressed their sincere “I’m sorry” to me and others in the past few months. I’m optimistic that this will occur more and more!

  2. Thanks, Joshua. Excellent phrases for a husband to “memorize by heart” and with all his heart!

    Perhaps the difficulty you might be alluding to is that it is just simply too hard for some to specifically and clearly acknowledge specific facts, events, statements and sins for which they should be sorry for. And yes, a blanket apology does little, I think.

    More than anything else, I do not think any apology “will work” unless it is truly genuinely contrite, which requires true humility, brokenness, and a working of the Holy Spirit.

  3. CanadianGirl

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ben. I remember hearing something about you and money through the UBF grape-vine of course, but I didn’t know it was that much! My life’s issues seem less large right now :). THANKS (just kidding).

    Anyways, I just wanted to say that it’s good that lots of people say “UBFrinds should be shut down”. That means somehow one more person has come onto this site and read that people are talking about issues in UBF in a relatively healthy way and will potentially move towards a realization of freedom and grace. The more that people say that the more it must mean peope are being effected and perhaps being lead towards wholeness and change.

    Maybe people don’t realize that the majority of young people know how to “google” UBF and discover much worse sites and things said about UBF then things on here. At least if people come to this site they see that people’s ears aren’t completely closed but that there is a scent of hope and reconciliation! I mean for a girl whose close family member read all of the other sites on UBF and completely “hates” UBF… me talking about UBF on this site is one of the signs that not all people in UBF are completely unaccountable or ignoring issues. Thank you Jesus for UBFriends.

    Lastly, I’m personally not worried about people who don’t like UBFriends or who are resistant towards steps towards wholeness and freedom… for there is a portion of unrestrained young UBFers that believe nothing is impossible with God when a few of his sons and daughters get together and pray for his will to be done!
    This is my UBF theme song: (it’s rap/hip hop so be warned to those who are not familiar with such a genre :) )

  4. curie.lee

    Thanks for this post; it compels me to respond.

    To respond directly: to say the words “I’m sorry” require a lot of courage — courage that I was blessed to witness in the tearful confessions of several senior shepherds at our most recent Easter Conference in Boston. To use an adage, this was a moment where I saw ‘the glass half full.’

    To respond slightly differently: I watched a poignant TED talk by Joshua Prager, journalist at The Wall Street Journal, on his own personal story of remorse and forgiveness. I think we may be able to relate to, or be challenged by, his insights.

    Definitely worth 18:31 minutes of time:

    • Great talk, Curie. By the way, these TED talks are awfully helpful. Here is another talk, by Margaret Heffernan, that is very very relevant to UBF. Everyone in UBF should watch it 10 times:

      At 8:30 she talks about a certain “Joe” who reminded me very much about our Joe here.

      Hefernan says: “So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all, it requires that we find people who are very different from ourselves. That means … we have to seek out people with different backgrounds, different disciplines, different ways of thinking and different experience, and find ways to engage with them.” In that regard, I see the glass of UBF already half full. In UBF chapters you have people from so different cultural and church backgrounds as in no other church. I really loved that. But to really make the glass full, it would be necessary that we engage with each other in an honest and open way and dare to disagree with each other. Not in a separating “agree to disagree” way (in the sense of “I don’t care”), but in a way that really brings us together and pleases God. I’m pretty sure he wants us to think. Otherwise why did he give us a brain?

      Hefernan again: “But it strikes me that the biggest problems we face … mostly haven’t come from individuals, they’ve come from organizations, … So how do organizations think? Well, for the most part, they don’t. And that isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s really because they can’t. And they can’t because the people inside of them are too afraid of conflict. In surveys of European and American executives, fully 85 percent of them acknowledged that they had issues or concerns at work that they were afraid to raise. Afraid of the conflict that that would provoke, afraid to get embroiled in arguments that they did not know how to manage, and felt that they were bound to lose. Eighty-five percent is a really big number. It means that organizations mostly can’t … think together.”

      I’m glad that this website helps us to think together.

    • Curie, thanks for posting this. There are so many great and thought-provoking TED talks, but I haven’t seen this one yet.

      Chris, if I could “like” the comment you just wrote, I would. That quote from Heffernan that you posted and your comments on it are interesting. Looking forward to watching both TED talks this afternoon with a nice cup of coffee..

    • Speaking of TED talks, there are some relevant talks regarding the Moonie church. ubf is clearly a Moonie-light group.

      Q&A with a former Moonie member

      Exactly what former ubf members have mentioned:

      “It was constantly reinforced that we had a purpose that was much higher than that of anyone else in the world. It was pretty appealing to be a part of something like that. But, I missed my freedom. There were times when I really missed being like the people I saw on the street every day. But, it was constantly reinforced that I was saving the world, so I trusted my beliefs and gave up my freedom.”

      What do you think are the identifying traits of a cult? What differentiates cult from group?

      The first one is an all or nothing world view. If easy answers to complex questions are handed to you on a silver platter and if you’re asked to believe in them unquestioningly and told not to seek an alternative, that’s a cult. If there’s a clear us and them, and we the insiders have the answers to all the questions about the world — especially if those answers are very simple. For example — Moon is the messiah. I’m a mere mortal so I shouldn’t question anything. Anytime that you feel that you’re inside a group looking out at the rest of the world thinking, “If they only knew what we knew, they’d understand how right we are.”

      Also, if the leader is all-knowing. That’s a big one. And of course, the circular logic is the other thing. If everything comes back to this simple logic, if you can’t have rational thought or critical thought, that’s a cult.

      What is it like to have this circular thought? What does it feel like for the individual in this logic loop?

      Often, I would hear a song, or see a headline, or encounter someone that would bring up issues contradictory to the perspective of the group and it would just bounce off of me, because I knew that that was Satan invading. If it would start to make sense to me, it was Satan invading my thoughts. And this was reinforced by the group that that type of experience was as a result of a lack of faith. We were God’s soldiers and Satan was constantly trying to break down God’s soldiers. I needed to pray harder.

      Any critical question — the kind that a scientist would welcome — was not acceptable. In circular logic, anything that questions belief means something evil, bad or Satan. It’s wrong to listen, it’s wrong to even play with ideas that are different. This is how unthinkable things can happen.

      So, you stop using critical thought?

      Yes. And the thing that takes the place of critical thought is someone else’s voice. That voice literally replaces critical thought.

  5. Thanks, Curie. First off, congratulations on your new life in a new country and with a new status!

    Excellent talk by Prager. A memorable quote: “And it was then I understood that no matter how stark the reality, the human being fits it into a narrative that is palatable. The goat becomes the hero. The perpetrator becomes the victim. It was then I understood that Abed would never apologize.”

    For sure, he rose above his circumstances and choose an attitude that allows him to process his adversity and move forward positively.

  6. Thanks, CanadianGirl. Very well put. Yes, this site, albeit disliked (hated) by some, is perhaps making a dent in some small way. And yes, it is far better to be hot or cold rather than lukewarm.

    The facts of my financial loss, though traumatic, was truly God’s mercy and grace to me. I came to understand Jer 31:3. It was as though I was born again…again. It was as though God orchestrated this to happen to draw me closer to Him. I was overwhelmed by the fact that God’s love for me did not change one iota despite my inexcusable folly.

    I watched the rap hip hop. I guess my brain is too slow to be able to catch up with the speed of this genre. Perhaps a transcript might help me! Also, as an “old timer,” I prefer Led Zeppelin.

    So encouraged by your vibrant and positive outlook with your faith in God. Do convey my warmest regards to Andy and Jennifer (and to the Yoons if they are there on their sabbatical).

    • CanadianGirl

      your revealing my identity! lol jk.
      Don’t worry about not catching the words to the rap… it was just the chorus… “I know you will” that part. :)

      Anyways I try to hypothetically have a positive outlook… although after posting that I realized I may not have been given the call or determination to actually do much more than pray compared to others that are more involved… you need to be pretty emotionally and spiritually strong to come face to face with the actual ongoings of general UBF.

      and yes I will pass on your regards. Andy is doing a workshop on Holy Spirit and Joshua is doing one on the orphan spirit at the conference. (I know you aren’t going, just saying!)

  7. It’s hard to say “I’m sorry.” A friend sent me this and I realize that it might be harder to say, “I’m ________.”

  8. Mark Mederich

    chicago band song: ‘hard to say i’m sorry’:)