We were taught when we were young that if we hurt someone, we say “I’m sorry”. In turn, the hurt person would respond with “I forgive you.” If you were the one hurt, you could count on the other kid apologizing (or being forced to apologize) and all would be right again. This simple exchange was the magic that could make anything better; you could go back to playing like nothing ever happened.

But what if the other person never said sorry?

Often, when we hand out our forgiveness it’s because someone has first sought it out. But what if the person who hurt or offended us, never says “I’m sorry”?  Many people would jump to the conclusion that those people don’t deserve their forgiveness. In doing so, they continue to carry the pain and bitterness with them. However, choosing to hold on to that resentment is like drinking a bitter poison, and expecting the other person to die. 

When we forgive someone, it is rarely for their benefit. The act of forgiving someone actually benefits us the most. It allows us to let go, move on, and be fully present. Forgiving those who have wronged you will give you greater peace of mind.

Why we want an apology

When you receive a sincere apology, you feel heard, understood, acknowledged, and valued. At its essence, when someone says “I’m sorry”, they are admitting fault. They are validating your perception that they were in the wrong. However, keep these things in mind:

However, keep these things in mind:

  1. You don’t need anyone to validate your feelings for them to be valid.
  2. You don’t need to be agreed with to be understood.
  3. Just because someone isn’t sorry for what they did, doesn’t mean they aren’t sorry they hurt you.

How to forgive without an apology

Forgiving someone even when they haven’t apologized does NOT look like walking up to them and saying “I forgive you” out of the blue. This will more likely confuse or set-off the recipient of this unsolicited statement.

Forgiving the un-sorry person looks like:

1: Focusing on you

Unfortunately, you don’t have control over how anybody else feels, thinks, or acts. You can only control yourself. So do yourself a favor, and focus on how you can make your life easier. Forgiving someone who you’ve been holding a grudge against is one way to help heal yourself and step into a better and more peace-filled life.

2: Owning your feelings

Go ahead, be mad. Or sad. Or offended. Or hurt. But take responsibility. No one can make you feel a certain way, and they certainly can’t make you continue feeling that way day after day. When you consciously let go of whatever feeling you’re holding onto, you can set yourself free.

3: Recognizing your part

Nothing is one-sided. However, we often only focus on our side. In doing so, we are limiting our understanding of the situation and quite possibly viewing the other person in a worse light than they deserve. When you recognize the part that you played in the situation, you can more readily understand why the person re-acted the way they did.

4: Choosing to live in the present

When you refuse to let go of a grudge, you can never fully be in the present. You’ll find that your thoughts are dragged back to people who have wronged you or to events that happened long ago. Only when you can let those negative feelings go, can you truly be at peace with yourself and living in the here and now.

5: Not looking to feel offended

When we’ve been wronged by someone, we can easily look for other things they’re doing wrong. We focus on the negative and are more easily offended by that person. However, when you do this, you’re just gathering grudges — many of which you’ll never receive an apology for.

6: Looking beyond

This is taking all your experiences and choosing to learn from them. Instead of getting offended forever, look at the situation objectively. Do you need better boundaries to avoid letting people walk all over you? Do you need to learn to accept people where they are at? Whatever the lesson is, take it with you when you move forward.

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.

– Lewis B. Smedes

Keep in mind, forgiveness is also a process. The moment you decide to walk away and move on with your life is only the beginning. You will often have to remind yourself of the 6 principles above. You might fail sometimes, but that’s OK. You’re moving in the right direction. Working on forgiveness prevents any betrayal and bitterness from hanging over your life, helping you have not only a better today — but a better tomorrow too.


How to Let Go And Forgive Someone Who Doesn’t Say Sorry

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

How To Forgive Your Partner Even When He/She Is Not Sorry [Shifting Mindsets + Insightful Exercises]

When We Need an Apology, but Are Never Going to Get One