How to Accept an Apology you Never Received.

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It makes sense that we tend to the feel the deepest hurt from those we love the most.

After all, if we didn’t care about someone, that person couldn’t actually hurt our feelings. So it is often in our most intimate relationships that we are presented with the greatest opportunities for forgiveness and healing.

I choose to believe that most hurts inflicted aren’t intentional. Most of us are ill-equipped to be in relationships because no one has ever taught us how to express what we need, how to listen and communicate, or how to stop making our partners responsible for our happiness, to name only a few of the challenges that plague our relationships.

And because there was no class on how to create and sustain happy, healthy, and loving relationships, sometimes we screw it up. And sometimes we unintentionally hurt the ones we love.

I have a belief that when people intentionally inflict hurt on another human being, it’s because they’re hurting themselves in some way.

Maybe they were abused or neglected, so they don’t instinctively know or recognize their value (and therefore devalue others).

Maybe they were lied to repeatedly, so trust isn’t something easily given.

Maybe there are parts of themselves that they don’t like, so they hide and never let anyone get too close (leading to a fairly lonely existence).

We have all had experiences in our lives where we were hurt by someone’s words or actions, and they were able to apologize. They were self-aware enough to take responsibility for their choices and ask for forgiveness. But unfortunately, most people cannot or will not do that.

They cannot look at what they did; that’s not a part of themselves they want to see or acknowledge.

They cannot admit fault; that would mean they were somehow inadequate, insecure, or wrong. Therefore, they cannot offer an apology.

Which leaves us with a choice…

We can hold onto the resentment we have toward the person that hurt us. We can take the past hurt and carry it with us into the future. Maybe we try not to think about it too often, but intellectually understand that it is unconsciously guiding some of our current choices and behaviors in an attempt to avoid being hurt again.

Or:

We can do the deep work of forgiving someone who never asks to be forgiven. We can move into the future without carrying the weight of resentment from the past. We can heal the hurt so that we don’t feel the need to put on unnecessary armor that keeps people from knowing and loving us deeply.

Here’s how I’ve done it in my own life (and it works every single time):

I choose to see the wound the person carries.

There’s some thought, belief, or fear that person is carrying through their lives—playing as a silent script behind the scenes. That wound creates some negative or painful emotion within them that subconsciously influences their choices, actions, and behaviors.

For example, there was a man I loved who hurt me deeply when he lied to me again and again and again. It took me a long time to stop beating myself up about it. It took me even longer to stop being so angry with him. That is, until I made the decision to look at the wounds he was carrying of fear and insecurity, rather than the arrogance or dishonesty that had consumed the memory of my experience.

If I remained focused on the lies and the hurt, I would have remained stuck. I would still be carrying what felt like a 20-pound weight around on my shoulders. I would be living in the past.

But as soon as I focused on the hurt he was carrying that caused him to take an action that would hurt myself and others, I found compassion for him. And I could move forward from a place of compassion. Which means I can accept an apology I never received. I can forgive, even though no one asked to be forgiven. I can choose to not pick up their wound and make it my own.

And there’s so much more freedom in compassion and forgiveness than there is in anger and resentment.

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Relephant:

How to Apologize.

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Relephant bonus:

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Author: Sharon Pope
Image: Unsplash/Yun Heng Lin
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Sharon Pope

Sharon Pope is a certified Master Life Coach and a Six-Time #1 International Best-Selling author, specializing in love and relationships. Click here to get a free e-book that will give you the path to healing after heartbreak or divorce so that you can move forward and feel confident again.

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Brandi Mahurin-Wright Feb 6, 2018 1:09pm

Forgiveness is freedom, it's freedom from anger, from resentment, from pain and from bitterness. Too often we let another person's bad action define us because we don't forgive. I really like this article, the one thing I would add is that forgiveness is an ongoing decision that may need to be made more than once and sometimes daily, especially for those who will never offer an apology. I've seen far too often a person living with bitterness have their whole life affected because they cannot forgive and move forward. I would also add forgiving oneself is very important because we make decisions that hurt us too, whether unintentionally or not, and we're all wounded in some way and need grace and forgiveness just as much as the person(s) we're forgiving. I see forgiveness as a cycle of sorts that's always ongoing and if we stay in its flow we can let go of the past hurts and live in the present and enjoy our lives, instead dwelling on the past which we cannot change.

Ron Laswell Feb 5, 2018 7:33pm

From personal experience, I can tell you that waiting for someone else to apologize is like waiting for hell to freeze over. It ain't gonna happen! Probably the person I have had the most problems with in my life, has been my father. He was only 18 when he got my 15 year old mom pregnant. Both came from broken homes, and neither completed school. Right away, off to a bad start. Until age 18, I endured years of both physical and emotional abuse from both of them. Fast forward 60 years. I got divorced from a woman I had been married to for 27 years. Four years later, I met a wonderful woman whose love for me was the best thing I'd ever experienced in life. My father had nothing good to say about it, and constantly condemned me for being immoral. His actions and behavior had such a negative influence on the relationship that she ended up eventually leaving. I went to therapy thinking the problem was with the relationship with the woman I had been with. The therapist, a woman, got me to realize the real problem was the fact that I had never stood-up to my father. Which is true,so I did, even though I was 64. In all honesty, I must admit that it felt good to get all that negative ju-ju off my chest. I realize he did the best that he knew possible, and I told him that I loved him. Unfortunately, he was not able to show me any respect and refused to say he loved me. So if something is bothering you enough, hopefully do it while you are younger, and before the other person dies.

Chris McDermott Feb 5, 2018 5:38pm

Very true and enlightening...

Terry Price Feb 5, 2018 4:40pm

I believe in this concept and appreciate this piece. Forgiveness is not so much about "them" as it is about us. A true act of forgiveness is an act of grace, extended whether ask for or not, whether deserved or not.