Forgiving... Even When They Are Not Sorry?

anxiety apologies awareness boundaries depression forgiveness the arena toxic relationships your playmates



You have a situation where someone has hurt, betrayed, and/or offended you.


In a perfect world, they give a heart-felt apology, ask what they can do to make amends, and work to gain your forgiveness and trust through whatever process is necessary.  The situation is not repeated, and you live happily ever after.  All is perfect.


Except this is not a perfect world.


As Hawkeye said in M.A.S.H., “We're looking for a custom fit in an off-the-rack world.”


Truer words are not often said.  People are faulty.  And while we may be sorry for our faults and what we've done, oftentimes, we must really work not to create the same offense again.  We have to strive for change.  It is not easy, and it usually takes time... and more mistakes.


Continually extending forgiveness in these circumstances, when the offense is repeated, can be really difficult. Still, if we see their efforts to change, it is much easier for us to do our part and be understanding and forgiving.  After all, we are certainly not perfect ourselves, so it will soon be our turn to seek forgiveness for our own mistakes and mistreatment of others.  When both parties are doing their best, more growth, love, and trust can develop as they work together to serve one another in their weaknesses.


That sounds kind of lovely too, doesn't it?  After all, we all want to feel loved and accepted, even when we aren't perfect.


The real problem arises when we find ourselves interacting with someone who knows that we, as a society, value forgiveness, mercy, patience, and understanding...


...and they use it against us.


We might find these unsettling moments in the most surprising of places.... a passing interaction with a new acquaintance that is misconstrued, a friendship that encounters a difficult situation, or a long-standing family/life partner dynamic...


any place anywhere we can find ourselves being asked to accept their apology, to forgive...


...but unfortunately, we realize they are not really sorry.


Just sorry that they have been caught.




It's important in times like these to remember that forgiveness is more for us.  It helps us resolve the situation by learning from the experience and letting go.


When we harbor the hurt, betrayal, or offense, that negative emotion hurts us, NOT them.


Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to be in close, ongoing contact with people who, seriously, never apologize.  Some of these people are now gone from my life, while others are still around.


With each of these people, it didn't and doesn't matter if I cry, scream, plead, logically reason, or withdraw.  The apology for mistreatment was and is not forthcoming.  Oh, sometimes there are some squeaks that kind of sound like an apology, but it's more to give the affect than a sincere expression of regret and desire to make amends.


It took years to come to terms with how insincere and manipulative these people closest to me were.  No matter how badly I was treated, I had continued to extend understanding, forgiveness, patience


...and trust.


Then finally, painfully, I came to the undeniable truth.


They weren't sorry.


In some cases, their pride would not let them admit to mistakes or faults.  In others, their addictions kept them stuck in playing the victim role.   The most common tactics used to avoid or affect an apology involved...


Playing the martyr/victim, "I'm sorry that I'm not good enough for you" apology non-apology.


Using the "guilt trip instead of apology" sidestep.


Employing "what you should be thankful for instead of being upset" sidestep.


Using the "now that you're bringing this up, let me take this opportunity to tell you what you've done wrong" sidestep.


Then there were those who really like to inflict and watch emotional pain (I suspect a personality disorder, but not diagnosed).  Their tactics are like the above listed but on steroids.  The crazy-making they are capable of is off the charts.  Their goal is to keep you questioning your sanity, so of course, they are not sorry.


Yep, all kinds of people walk this earth, and I needed to come to grips with my “Polly Anna” outlook.  The pain of realizing that these people I loved so much were not sorry was a searing pain at first, but a remarkable thing happened pretty shortly thereafter...


My brain relaxed.  I felt the stress release from my body, and I began to see my life so much more clearly.  Cognitive dissonance is when what we believe and what is real are at odds with one another.  It's a puzzle screaming to be solved, but we're hiding crucial pieces from ourselves.  When we get really brave and face things we think might kill us if we see them for what it is, our world shifts...


...and we have a new opportunity to be FREE.


I came to terms with my reality- I had some really toxic relationships.  Instead of more worrying, over-extending, over-doing, codependency...


I stopped.  I accepted the limitations of those I love.  I accepted the lack of sorrow, apology, and desire to make amends.  I accepted that even though I wanted the "relationship door" to be open and swinging in both directions, it was, in fact...




I accepted that I had allowed myself to be abused for a very long time.  I examined what I needed.  After much discussion with myself, I forgave myself for allowing it.  Without any further discussion with the other parties, I forgave them...


...and withdrew my trust.


Now, some of you reading this may be thinking, "Well, of course, you withdraw trust.  Everyone knows that."  I didn't.  For those of us raised by a toxic personality, trust is expected no matter what.  That's why, I think, I'm writing this post...


...For those of us who need to be taught a better way, so we can all start modeling and creating healthier relationships.


Only in healthy relationships is trust part of forgiveness.


If you are going to continue to move forward in a relationship, then giving trust again will be crucial to full-fledged forgiveness.  If, however, the relationship isn't healthy, or you have to sever all ties, forgiveness is still your best option. Just don't extend trust.  Contrary to many opinions, we are not entitled to trust.


Trust is definitely something we all earn.


Remember, forgiveness is not just for the offender.  It is every bit for the offended.  Forgiveness isn't about saying that what they did was okay or that you were wrong to want an apology.  Withholding forgiveness doesn't hurt the one not sorry.  That's just your bruised ego talking.


I know it isn't easy.  In fact, it might be one of the hardest things you achieve in your life.


So, if you find yourself stuck in demanding to see justice win out, then you being shackled by another person's bad behavior certainly isn't just.


Forgiveness is a step you take for yourself towards balancing the scale.


Do some collaborative conversation with yourself on this, then let go, forgive and experience the peace and joy of moving forward without that toxin dragging you down.


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