Determining whether someone is actually sorry for their sins or not isn’t as hard as one might think; all it takes is asking a simple question or two.

If someone tells you they lied to get their job, you could ask them, “If you had to do it all over again, would you tell the truth—most likely resulting in you not getting the job—and trust in Jesus to provide for you and love you for your perfect honesty?” Someone can’t truly be sorry if they would still commit that same action all over again because they liked the results. That isn’t sorrow.

Let’s say someone says they cheated on their spouse. You could ask them, “Do you still see that person? What are your plans to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” If someone isn’t willing to stop seeing that person and put forth great effort to no longer sin, then they aren’t truly sorry.

If a woman confesses she became angry with her husband and hit him, you could ask her, “Why?” You could then ask her if she’d be willing to pray in order to help her tolerate whatever injustice she thought was befalling her—in silence and meekness, just like the Lord did—so as to keep the peace. If she isn’t willing to do something to turn her anger around then she isn’t actually sorry.

If a person says they watched pornography, you could ask them how they are looking at it. He will respond by saying it’s either through TV, the Internet, magazines, or by some other means. You could then ask him if he’s willing to remove those types of channels on his TV, put an internet blocker on his computer, or to not shop in stores that carry those kinds of magazines, etc. If he’s not willing to sacrifice something in order to avoid succumbing to temptation so he can sin no more, then he isn’t truly sorry.

This same technique can be also applied to any sin a person commits.