Forgiveness Without An Apology

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Forgiveness… it is something that we all have experience with whether we are the forgiven or the forgiver. We always associate forgiveness with acknowledgement of the wrong followed by an “I’m sorry” or “I apologize”.  Forgiving someone is never easy but it is easier when they acknowledge their wrong and want to make it right. Their apology does not always minimize the hurt and pain that may have been caused but it does offer a starting point in the rebuilding and restoration of the relationship.

Forgiveness can be long and drawn out. Even after the acknowledgement of wrong that is followed by an I’m sorry, it can still take time after that to move past the hurt, anger and pain.  Forgiving someone is a process of mending what has been broken. It is not always easy but it is necessary to forgive those who hurt us. Forgiving someone is often easier when you hear the words I’m sorry from the other party.

However, what if you never hear the words I’m sorry.  What if they never acknowledge their wrong?  How can you begin the process of restoration or rebuilding a relationship when they haven’t recognized the hurt and pain that was caused by their actions?

I would love to say it is easy to forgive without an apology but it isn’t. Personally, I find that it is so much harder to forgive someone without an apology. I have experienced this in my own life. I will tell you it was something that I struggled with and wrestled with it daily. I wanted so much to move past the situation.  I wanted to hear the words “I’m sorry. I was wrong!”. I wanted to see them take responsibility and accountability for their part and their actions. I felt justified in my feelings and felt that an apology was something that I was owed and something that I deserved.

Yet, those words never came.

I held onto my feelings of hurt, pain and anger.  I prayed daily for God to show them their wrong and convict their heart to make it right.  However, that never happened that I know of. As each day passed, my hurt and pain only increased.  It began to consume my thoughts and I could feel discouragement and bitterness begin to creep into my heart.

I have learned as a Christian that sometimes that we are put in the position of apologizing even when we are right.  That is never easy. However, in order to move past the situation and to move one, you have to be the bigger person.  I have done that many times.

In this situation, I didn’t want to be the bigger person again.  I had grown weary of “always being the bigger person.” I was frustrated in seeing the lack of accountability and responsibility of words being said and actions taken that seemed to never be followed by any regret. I was determined this not to be the one to apologize and I was not going to move forward with forgiveness until I heard those words “I am sorry!”.

And to this day, I have never heard the words.

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So what was the outcome?  I made the decision to forgive them.  I will be honest and tell you it wasn’t easy.  It was one of the hardest lessons in forgiveness that I have learned.  There was so much hurt and pain involved that it made moving forward even harder. Often times, I have found that is it easier to forgive a friend or a stranger than it is to forgive those who love us the most.

I found myself in place where I felt justified in my feelings and they were validated.  Yet, I was at a standstill because I couldn’t move past the hurt and pain without an apology.  I anguished over this situation for a long period of time. It consumed my thoughts and my life.  I was right in how I felt yet they saw no wrong in what was done.

One day while taking with Charles he said “Renee, you may never get an apology.  Then what? You may never hear them say the words I am sorry.” Of course, this was not what I wanted to hear.  It also made me think about my choice and my actions in this situation.

Would I hold onto this hurt and pain waiting for something that I may never receive?  Would I continue to let the unforgiveness take root in my heart and continue to grow to the point that the relationship would be permanently damaged? Would I let the bitterness and resentment that I felt consume my life and change who I was on the inside? Would I choose to let the unforgiveness destroy the work that God has created in me?  Or would I choose to forgive so that I can move forward for myself, for the sake of our relationship and for my relationship with God.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
— Ephesians 4:31-32

I chose to forgive without an apology.  I chose to show mercy. I chose to get rid of the bitterness, hurt and pain.  I chose to be compassionate. I chose to move past my suffering not only for my benefit but for theirs as well.

During that time God revealed to me that even as Jesus was upon the cross, he extended forgiveness to those who were crucifying him.  If Jesus could show forgiveness despite the pain and eventually his death, how was I better than Him not to extend the same forgiveness to the one who offended me.

As I mentioned, it was a difficult and painful process making the choice to forgive without an apology. However, I learned that this process was more about me than it was them.

Choosing to forgive someone who hasn’t acknowledged their wrong was more about me coming to a place in my relationship with God where he is developing my character and my strength in Him.  That is worth more to me than hearing the words that I am sorry.

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How can I not extend the same mercy to the ones who have hurt me that God has granted me? Mercy that isn’t deserved but is given to me by a compassionate and loving Father.  

Forgiving someone without an apology speaks more about your character than it does to theirs. So if you are struggling with forgiveness, I pray that with God, you choose to forgive those who hurt you, with or without an apology. You will find that forgiveness is more about you than it is them. This will allow you to continue to walk fully in the purpose that God has called you.

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