I thought these comments by Mahaney were interesting.
When I have sinned against someone, a sincere confession is required. A confession that is sincere and pleasing to God will be specific and brief. I have learned to be suspicious of my confession if it’s general and lengthy. A sincere confession of sin should be specific (“I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?”) and brief (this shouldn’t take long). When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I’m not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding.
I find that one of the most common approaches to confession is exactly what Mahaney says here. We try to explain things, such as why we did it, and what we were trying to do. By doing such, we are often looking to be understood, not forgiven. We are looking to minimize our sin, not deal with it.
Now, I am not sure that explanation is always wrong. Sometimes, sin in relationships does come out of good motives. For instance a father may yell at his son and lose his temper because he is genuinely concerned about his son's wrong behavior. In such a case confession is still necessary, though I am not convinced an explanation is out of order.
However, in general, I think Mahaney is on to something here.
I am also suspicious of confessions that do not include "Will you forgive me?" It is easy to say, "I'm sorry." It is much more difficult to add, "Will you forgive me?" because you are relinquishing control to the one whom you have sinned against. Besides that, it's just plain humbling, even humiliating.
The proud control freak in all of us wishes to solve problems by ignoring them, or at least saying by maintaining control.
Give it up. Learn to humble yourself and say, "Will you forgive me?" Then stop talking.