“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
Takes everything you have to say the word
Forgiveness” – Forgiveness by Matthew West
How often do you feel that in order to forgive, you must first be presented with an apology? I know I’ve done it. How dare h/she! They had no right to treat me such a way. The audacity! The nerve of some people! They should apologize!
Back to the real world. How often do those who wrong you actually apologize? Right. Exactly. A question I’ve grappled with in the past is how can I forgive someone who’s not sorry? Or further, forgive someone who doesn’t think they did anything wrong? Or forgive someone I may never see or speak to again?
I think many of us get this idea that in order for forgiveness to happen, for everyone to move on, it needs to be a give and take encounter. They admit they wronged you, give an apology, you hug it out and then you forgive them.
The sooner you can let go of this idea, the sooner you can move on with your life!
Many times, the people who hurt you do not care or do not realize, or both. You cannot make forgiveness contingent upon the other party being sorry. For your own sake, for your own sanity and happiness, let go of this ridiculous notion.
Suck it up, and forgive them anyway.
So simple, right? HA! How exactly do I do that when not given the opportunity to say my peace, to make the other person understand how badly they wronged me? How can resolution and letting go occur when I don’t get to speak my mind about how badly I’ve been wronged?
Let me ask you, do you need confirmation that you’ve been wronged? Or, do you already know that? Do you really need for the other person to feel sorry, to say they’re sorry? Is that going to change how you feel about the situation?
“Grab a plate, and throw it on the floor.
Did it break? Yes?
Okay, now tell it you’re sorry.
Good, now, did it un-break?
No? Now you understand.” -Unknown
So, the question at hand is not when is the other person going to apologize. The question is how can you stop needing the apology? There’s enough euphemisms and arbitrary advice about forgiveness to fill a library, but that doesn’t make forgiveness any easier, does it? No. When it comes to actually forgiving someone who hurt you, wronged you, betrayed you, it’s hard. It hurts. You somehow feel like if you forgive the person who hurt you, that you’re saying what they did was okay.
That’s not at all what it means. It only means that you’re not going to hold onto it anymore, but instead open up space for healing. As long as you’re holding onto anger and resentment, you’re taking up valuable space for love, kindness, gratitude, hope, and most importantly, healing.
So, to my point on how to actually forgive someone without an apology. Let’s make believe for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine you’re having that crucial conversation with them. They knock on your door or ring your phone, and they pour out their heart admitting their wrongdoing and offer their most sincerest of apologies. You then get to say everything you’ve wanted to say to them, you forgive them, and you hug it out. (And in this part, during your make believe conversation, I want you to actually say everything you have wanted to say. Say it out loud to nobody in particular, or write it out in a letter you don’t intend to send.)
Once you’ve gotten it all out, picture your offender in your mind and say, “I know this may never get to happen in real life, but I forgive you anyway because I’m done feeling this way.” Then take a deep breath and release them from your heart. Release them from your mind. Let the hurt go. With every breath out, release it. And then I want you to end your make believe conversation with, “Thank you for teaching me how to forgive even though you didn’t say sorry.” Then you burn that letter, or throw it away, and move on. Move on so you can be you again – the you who is free from anger and resentment, and full of gratitude, love and hope.
Have you ever had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry? Did this or something similar work for you? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your experience in the comments.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.