March 14, 2017

Forgiving Someone who is Not Sorry is One of the Hardest Things to Do.

“I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who was not sorry,” ~ Unknown

I often see this quote, and when I read it, it resonates strongly.

I have been in quite a few different situations where someone has harmed me severely and never showed remorse or offered an apology. I then had to try to work my way through forgiveness alone, as holding onto the pain and resentment was hurting me far more than it was hurting them.

To entirely forgive someone who is not sorry and refuses to repent for what they have done can feel like an almost impossible task.

During childhood, many of us were taught that when we misbehaved and our words or actions hurt or offended someone, we should let them know that we are sorry and, in return, the person we had wronged would usually reply, “It’s okay, I forgive you.”

However, what we weren’t often taught is that it didn’t really matter whether we actually felt sorry or not. As long as the words were said, no one would really notice if they were shallow mutterings and there was no meaning to them.

In fact, I have heard many children—and adults—voice the word “sorry” with anger, attitude, and with a clear indication that they were not sorry at all. This may follow with sulking until the entire situation gets swept under a thick, heavy carpet until one day, something occurs to trigger its reappearance.

It is far easier to forget about an altercation when you aren’t sorry and you aren’t the one suffering.

There are also those apologies that start out with, “But…” The word but negates any offering that comes after it.

As we reach adulthood, we start to realize that there is far more substance to our interactions and dynamics with people than we were able to understand as children. Many of us become less naïve, particularly as we start to pay greater attention to actions, body language, energy, and the various subliminal messages that are hidden within everything people say or do.

When we grow up, we comprehend that “sorry” does not always mean that the person is sorry. Sometimes people do harm and neither say sorry nor mean it, as there isn’t a parent or someone standing behind them sharply nudging them to make sure they apologize so that everything will appear okay again.

Often the word sorry never appears, as not everyone wants to think about their actions and take accountability for what they have done.

A line from one of my favorite childhood movies, “The Parent Trap,” has remained with me and explains quite clearly how many people feel: “I’m not sorry, and I’d rather not lie.”

In these cases, what do we do when someone refuses to apologize, as they truly don’t feel sorry (or they won’t admit they do)? We still feel hurt, offended, angered, or disappointed by his or her behavior.

When we cannot achieve external peace, we then need to do whatever we can to find inner peace, and this can be reached with empathy and compassion so that we can forgive the other person as well as ourselves.

Despite how badly we want to hear the word “sorry” from someone else, the only person we actually have to rationalize and reason with to regain harmony is ourselves.

When we feel hurt by another person and experience suffering, it is because we have placed an expectation on them to behave in a way that meets our standards. It doesn’t matter whether this is a stranger, a family member, a friend, or a lover—it all equates to the same.

People hurt, anger, or disappoint us because we expect more.

We expect to be treated respectfully, and when this doesn’t happen, we hope that we will receive an apology to explain why. This will then settle our emotions and assure us that they were in the wrong and we were right, that it won’t happen again, and that balance is restored as they have come to their senses and attempted to appease the situation.

Of course, this is not always what happens, and every situation won’t be dissipated just because of a five-letter word. However, that one word can go a long way to rebuilding whatever bridges have been damaged between two (or more) people.

Neither does that one word mean that the behavior expressed was excusable and that we have to instantly forget the injustice and act as though it never happened.

However, when someone opens up to us and is honest, vulnerable, and courageous and they accept that something they did has caused a negative effect, then healing and rebuilding can occur far more quickly and easily for all concerned.

If there is no apology, then we can work on healing ourselves and on processing what has taken place, and how we can understand what has caused the upset. We then give ourselves the opportunity to remove any internal tension and hopefully move past it.

We may hear people saying that a certain person doesn’t deserve our forgiveness. However, our forgiveness is more about finding peace within ourselves first, and is not beneficial only for the other person. Unless we reach a place of forgiveness within ourselves, our forgiveness won’t be truly given anyway, so it is imperative we first take time for deep introspection.

Just because we forgive does not mean we automatically need to drop all boundaries and allow people the opportunity to harm us over and over again. We can forgive someone entirely and still choose not to have a close connection with that person.

We don’t even need to contact the other person to let them know we have forgiven them. Reaching a stage of forgiveness is something we go through internally, so it is up to us to choose if and how we externalize how we feel.

Whether or not we continue to closely interact with someone we have forgiven who isn’t willing to be accountable will likely depend on a number of things, including the severity of the injustice and how badly it has affected our lives. We can forgive and heal from the trauma and still decide to maintain healthy boundaries if we feel that they are a risk to our emotional, mental, or physical health.

Sometimes an apology is empty, and at other times, it is loaded and sincere. There will also be times when the most significant apology is not the one that is voiced, but the one that is expressed through a visible change in behavior.

I would happily take changed behavior over a million voiced “sorry’s”.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to forgive someone, whether they are sorry or not, is by remembering this quote by an unknown writer, “Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently.”

We all mess up and make mistakes, and when we do, the length we are willing to go to make amends is really what counts toward whether our apology is heartfelt or not.

An apology is less about whether someone says the words, and more about whether they are truly sorry—and how they work on making things better.

It is often far easier to forgive someone who shows remorse than it is to forgive someone who doesn’t.

When there are no words and no changes in their behavior, we then have no other option than to work on forgiveness on our own.

Deciding to forgive someone won’t happen the moment we say we are ready to forgive. Like with most things, it is not about perfection but progression. So every time a memory pops into our head that reminds us of the incident, we can gently return to empathy and compassion to gain closure by repeating these words, “I forgive you, I am letting go and releasing myself from any pain and suffering,” instead of replaying painful words or actions.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” ~ Unknown

If someone intentionally caused us pain, then we are giving them what they hoped for by continuing to hold onto our suffering.

When we don’t work on forgiveness, we become emotionally anchored to the pain. Forgiveness frees us and prevents the betrayal from lingering on and affecting not only our past but also our present and future too.




Author: Alex Myles

Image: Pixabay

Editor: Travis May







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Sondra Maune Aug 30, 2018 2:20pm

This helped me so much today. This year seems to be one of the most difficult I have faced in a long time with trying to be forgiving with things said and done by others. Then again perhaps I am beginning to realize and trying to improve how I speak and do others. Sometimes people don't realize they have said are done anything to hurt another. I'm learning to think before I open my mouth as I do not want to intentionally hurt anyone. Practicing the law of silence seems the best way to go for me during this fast paced world we live in. Not taking things personally seems the best way to go. Wish you lived next door. It would be so nice to see a smile and share a cup of tea with someone like you. It helps considerably when I just remember to see everyone as Soul that is still learning.

James Thompson Aug 27, 2018 3:29pm

I think pardoning is a good word choice. It captures the importance between letting go of one’s anger and not holding onto a grudge versus not simply letting someone who has betrayed you off the hook as continuing on as if nothing had ever happened. If there has been an important/genuine betrayal in a relationship (and we’re not talking about petty stuff or small potatoes) and there is no apology because either the person is not sorry (because they don’t care, don’t perceive that they have done anything wrong, or don’t perceive it as a big deal), then decision to “pardon” is a healthy one. It enables one to (a) not let one’s own heart become stained through bitterness, but at the same time (b) redefine one’s expectations for future relationships and interactions with the person that is workable (i.e., healthy). My additional two cents: it is important to remember there is no obligation to explicitly explain or justify one’s revised expectations for a relationship to another person who you feel has betrayed you and not made a genuine attempt to apologize. For example, someone who says words to the effect “Oh c’mon, the only reason you’re not willing to do X is because of Y (i.e., the betrayal) – when are you going to get over that?” does not obligate you to rehash the conflict (unless you want to do so – but remember, sometimes everything has been said that needs to be said) or to justify your decisions about future interactions with the person. It is not being passive aggressive to say in response to the charge above “Actually, I am over Y, but I just don’t want to do X. Doing X doesn’t appeal to me. I simply don’t want to do it. OK?”

John Byrnes May 11, 2018 1:37am

I think it depends on whether there is a relationship and whether it can be restored. If there is and it is hoped it can be restored then the process whereby trust is rebuilt is for the person who feels offended to bring the behavior to the attention of the actor, who may then apologize and then must come forgiveness. In Luke Jesus outlines the script: if your brother sins against you rebuke him and if he repents then forgive. Repentance and Forgiveness are Siamese twins, they are joined and are dead if separate. If the actor values the relationship but feels they did nothing wrong they can still offer an apology along the lines of "Oh I'm sorry I didn't express that clearly enough, my bad" or a house guest might say "Oh I should have asked if you wanted me to discipline your child in front of you when she went to the freezer and helped herself to some ice-cream". An apology is a vehicle to display one's trust in the person offended even if they perhaps should not have taken offense. In this case generally that person would be feeling somewhat vulnerable and thus in a weak position and responds emotionally. In either case the script runs by the actor, who wishes to restore the trust, choosing to make himself or herself vulnerable as well. The the right thing for the person hurt to do is forgive, e.g. by saying "That's ok, just try not to do ABC and XYZ when here, I'm no angel myself, let's close that and move on". OTOH if this restoration of relationship is not undertaken or there never was any relationship in the first place, the theme of this post, then that script is not applicable. So on the cross Jesus did not forgive the Romans but asked his Father to do so, for they know not what they do. He turned his struck right cheek (the feeling side of one's brain) away and brought his left cheek (the understanding side) to face the Romans and handed the matter over to a higher power to deal with. The process then becomes one of pardoning for want of a better word, i.e. letting go of the offense while not denying the behaviors, rather than forgiveness per-se. This use of pardon is not meant to be seen from the point of view a criminal might, of being let off lightly, but from the point of the entity doing the pardoning, say the Crown or President which sees no point in continuing with processing the offense (this example assuming the latter is not corruptly acting in cahoots with the party pardoned). Generally in this situation the relationship is terminated and one moves on, but alone insofar as the other person is concerned. If circumstances mean contact must be maintained in some manner then a new relationship needs be established where one is less trusting of boundaries being respected as a matter of assumption and being more alert to asserting one's boundaries. Even this can be difficult say with an interfering bossy house guest, e.g. the stereotypical mother-in-law from hell or overbearing much older sister-in-law with Aspergers, for when one invites guests into one's home one puts down one's defenses, for if there is any place where one should be able to do so then it should be in one's home. For such people the new relationship might have to be based on interactions taking place in their home, or in public, unfortunately.

Lauren Burton Feb 12, 2018 8:38pm

very helpful thanks!

Katya Hvass May 1, 2017 10:52am

I feel that apart from the non-verbal clarity that originates from stillness/love, etc. - everything else is just our subjective individual prospective i.e. - opinion rooted in our specific conditioning. This includes our expectations towards the behaviour of others and our judgement of how it effects us. The emotions of hurt we feel are still very real, of course. At the moment this understanding helps me a lot with releasing pain, but I still suffer greatly in the situations that involve "old" friends from childhood/ youth, as I seem to stubbornly hold on to the idea that they "should know better" as our childhood programming / conditioning was so similar. It is a load of rubbish of course - just my hurt ego trying to justify the story of upset. K �

Alex Myles Mar 18, 2017 11:43am

Thank you so much, appreciate your thoughts Berni, Namste

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Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. Alex’s bestselling book, An Empath, is on sale now for only $1.99! Connect with her on Facebook and join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people.