It seems so simple when we’re children. We are taught to apologize from a young age. The rules are simple. If you hurt someone’s feelings, say you’re sorry. The other person responds almost automatically with three simple words: “I forgive you.” Simple, right?
Think back. How many of those apologies sounded a little forced? You might have become adept at saying the words, but did you mean them? After some practice, probably not so much, right? You got smarter and savvier. You quit forgiving quite so easily.
Or you could have been on the receiving end and not giving genuine forgiveness. Just robotically saying it without thought or understanding. And without truly forgiving.
Have you stopped to think that maybe this wasn’t the ideal outcome?
Because, unfortunately, it wasn’t good for you in the long run. Unforgiveness has negative effects on your health. You don’t feel good. You spend time wallowing in self-pity and start thinking of yourself as a victim.
How do you overcome this?
Here are 6 easy to follow steps to genuinely forgive someone who isn’t sorry.
Choose to Forgive
The process starts with the obvious: making a conscious decision, you will forgive the other person. If it helps, speak your intention out loud.
Erase the Timeline
We expect things are going to be fixed the moment we make the decision to forgive. This can be more complicated when the other person isn’t apologizing or even part of the process. We might still carry some resentment with us or have a harder time letting go of the hurt than we originally expected. Remember this is a process and will take time. You might need to remind yourself of your intent more than once and give yourself several days, weeks, or even months before you truly feel it.
Recognize Who This is For
At this point, you’re not giving the other person forgiveness for them. You’re doing it for you. This is an important distinction to make and should help in the process.
Consider the Angles
Why isn’t the other person apologizing? How are they interpreting the situation? It might help to know the answer to these questions. Try empathy, seeing things through their eyes. With this understanding, you might have an easier time forgiving.
Release the Emotion
Find a way to express what you’re feeling. Writing a letter to the other person or journaling about your emotions can be a powerful way to work through your anger, pain, or disappointment. This isn’t necessarily anything you need to share with the other person. Just speaking these things in private can help enormously.
Finally, Let it Go
Once you have accepted the situation, nothing is left to hold you here. Step back from whatever caused the pain and instead face forward into the future, with nothing holding you back.