There are two words for "amend" in Hebrew: Yatav and Salem
The first word "Yatav" does not mean a worded apology. It literally means "to exist good." In Hebrew, when God says, "Thoroughly amend your ways" He actually just says in the Hebrew translation: "Yatav, yatav". He repeats the word twice, without using the English word 'thoroughly' (Jeremiah 7.5). "Exist good, exist good". That sounds a lot harder than just saying we're sorry. When we've hurt someone, do we take strong steps to make sure we return to "exist good" with them? Then do we make sure again? Anything less is less than true amendment. This is true whether we are the ones giving the amending, or looking to honestly discern with ourselves whether someone else means what they say.
The second word is "Salem". This word shares its root with one of the most well-known Hebrew words "Shalom", meaning: "to be at peace, be completed, to repay in full, make full restitution, cause to fulfil". Again, it's an action word.
"I'm so sorry" is often said by the ego. It often just means 'I feel bad' or 'I wish my mistake would go away, without me having to do anything differently, make restitution or change'. This is because true restitution will hurt the ego and pride, and if we care for ourselves more than the other person we won't want to be seen making amends. We won't want the cost to ourselves, or to make the permanent change in our behaviour which it may require. We also run the risk of having to face the hurt, anger and sorrow our actions and carelessness have caused to someone else's heart. But without facing our responsibility to make amends actively, this empty form of word-apology never brings true peace to the one attempting it. And it doesn't bring healing to the person who's been wronged either, because most of us can tell when our hearts and our goodness are being taken for granted. That is because it is a form of worldly sorrow for oneself. "I feel bad for myself." It is not Godly sorrow at how we've grieved God's heart by hurting another human being. Once someone else has Godly sorrow, it's like God saying: "I've got this; you don't need to be on it".
Godly sorrow is very releasing to the one who needs to make amends, because they are not being forced to but are moved to by the very heart of God Himself to change. It's a miracle and one of the sweetest things to watch and experience. No forcing, no self pity to try to manipulate the other person, just God bringing clear sight, healing and growth between people. Awesome.
Equally, if Godly sorrow is not there, there comes a time when it becomes wise and Godly to move on. God told Jeremiah eventually to "stop praying for these people," (Jeremiah 7:16). Mercy meets judgement every day - a truth. But also - time runs out for everyone some day. Also a truth. I pray God gives me the discernment to know when to keep praying and when to let go and walk away. It leads to a very efficient, holy and loving way of life, because I just focus on taking responsibility for what He's told me to do. But I don't take responsibility for what only He can do in another. Changing someone else's heart is not something over which I have control. Not only is that a very relaxed and calm way to live, but it also gives me all my energy to focus on my own responsibilities and not waste time interfering or trying to manipulate someone else's. I can give information, I can debate, if may be my responsibility at that time and it often is. But it is a truth that other people are responsible for their own choices, actions, responses and living with the consequences attached to all of these. Consequences are often God's teachers. And they are often much quicker and more effective than a thousand words. I see this most often as a parent.
It's clear to see very quickly from the Hebrew language that true amendment can only be done if we are humble, gentle and truly 'sorry' for how we've hurt or taken for granted the goodness in another. And truly making amends will usually cost us something. Because it's sometimes hard to "exist good" with someone we know we've hurt badly. For more on what it means to "Repent and Turn" in the Hebrew please click here.
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