How To Forgive Someone Who Isn’t Sorry

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Why Forgive Them If They’re Not Sorry?

When I often thought of forgiveness, I always thought it was a process where someone says sorry, and the other person forgives. However, as I’ve learned, that’s not always the case.

When we don’t get an apology from someone, we often wait until we do to forgive them. But in doing this, we hold on to grudges, anger, sadness, and other emotions that, over time, can cause more long-term issues than for them. As Buddha said:

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

We think we must hold to these feelings because the person hasn’t apologized. In reality, choosing to forgive someone is a choice we have to make regardless of their actions. Whether they have acknowledged our hurt or not, forgiving and moving forward (whether with them or without them) is ultimately up to us. 

Forgiveness does not have to be a process of receiving an apology. It can also be an empowered choice we make to choose to let go of the hurt, sadness or anger that someone else actions have caused it and instead choose peace of mind and contentment for ourselves (which is what happens when we decide to let go).

They Did What They Knew Best

A great aha moment for me came during a Red Table talk by Jada Smith. She was talking about her father, and she said (please don’t quote me for it as this is from memory!) that she understood her father did the best he knew how to and that had nothing to do with her.

Sometimes when someone has done wrong to us or hurt us, we think that this is a reflection of us and take it personally. Jada mentioning this helped me to make peace with my situation with my dad by myself. It helped me stop personalizing his actions and realize that people can only meet us as far as they can. Everybody is different. Every journey is different. Every person’s growth is different. 

Usually, someone’s actions reflect where they are in their life rather than about us. This is an important part of forgiving someone. It’s about realizing that sometimes, their actions have nothing to do with us and more about whether they are along their journey. Accepting and acknowledging this helps us move forward and forgive regardless of their actions.

“It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” – Francis of Assisi

Forgiveness Does Not Mean What They Did Was Okay

Another part of how to forgive someone who isn’t sorry is feeling like if we forgive them, we are accepting the fact that what they did was okay.

This is not the case.

When we choose to forgive someone, it’s not saying that what they did was okay but rather that we choose to move forward from it. So, for example, we can accept someone’s apology but still decide not to have them in our lives.

Related posts on relationships:

Letting Go Of Someone, You Love (When To & How To)

How To Set Boundaries With Toxic Family Members

Forgiveness Can Happen From A Distance

Whether the person is still in your life or not, forgiveness is often a process we still need to go through. Ironically often without the other person anyways. When my father moved, I thought I would never be able to move forward until I saw and heard him say sorry.

When he moved overseas, I learned not only all the points above but also that forgiveness can still happen whether that person is in your life or not or whether they are physically there.

Again, learning to forgive someone who isn’t sorry is a process we must go through.

Forgiveness Doesn’t Make You Weak.

We all feel stronger holding a grudge. It’s about sticking to our point of view until that person sees our side of things and eventually agrees with us! But, of course, that’s never how it works, especially when someone doesn’t say sorry!

Then it becomes a game of who can forgive first because it’s seen as the weaker option.

Holding on to our feelings is easier than letting them go because it means we have to go through the whole process of acknowledging all the points above. Forgiving is hard work. It takes a lot of courage and self-esteem to walk away from a situation with someone when you feel wronged and say it’s okay, I forgive you anyway.

It Allows The Cycle To End

You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’ – Maya Angelou

I love this quote because it ties in with all that forgiving has to teach us. Forgiveness can be challenging too, when we realize that we still love the person, whether it’s a family member or another type of relationship.

Forgiveness cannot happen without first loving ourselves enough to go through this process and let go, but it also can’t happen without acknowledging our love for the other person. After all, if we didn’t love them, we wouldn’t be so hurt by it, would we?

When we forgive, we end this cycle of resistance to the love of ourselves and the other person. Importantly I’ve also learned you can forgive someone and love them from a distance – without even speaking to them! For example, my relationship with my dad is complicated, and whilst he’s not in my life, I often tell people I love him from a distance. 

Saying this and acknowledging it helped me finally move forward and let go of all the heaviness I was carrying about it. Forgiveness allows the cycle of anger, sadness or hurts to end with ourselves and the other person.

Do You Want To Pass On Your Wisdom Or Your Woe?

Finally, in thinking about how to forgive someone who isn’t sorry, it’s also important to remember the people around us. When we hold grudges, hurt or anger, we can become toxic to ourselves and the people around us.

We all know what it’s like to be around someone who is constantly angry or who holds endless grudges. The question is, do we want to be that type of person?

When we forgive, we’re choosing to pass on our wisdom instead of our anger, sadness, frustration or disappointment. This has helped me to move forward every time. 

As I always say, it becomes a choice. Whether we pass on our wisdom – whether it’s to our friends, family or children is up to us. But it’s also up to us and our responsibility if we pass on our woes. Reflection on the situation and what we’ve learned is always better than deflecting our anger and negative emotions toward another loved one.