I was wrong. I knew better. I really didn’t consider your feelings, just my own. I’m sorry. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.
How many times have you said these words? When was the last time you admitted that you were wrong? How was it received? Were you forgiven right away or did you have to pay for your mistake for quite a while?
Most of us desire to be forgiven when we have hurt someone that we care about. We will do just about anything to make it right. This is such a challenge for relationships that even the TODAY show did a segment on The Art of the Apology.
But what happens when all of your efforts to earn forgiveness are not successful? What do you do if that person is still holding onto something you did for days, weeks, months if not years ago? What if the reason they can’t forgive you has nothing to do with you at all? What if the person is not willing to forgive you because what you did reminds them of pain from a previous relationship? How can you win in this situation? Is there anything you can do?
Often we have deep rooted pain that just won’t allow us to move on. We think that we’re over it, but in fact, we have only suppressed the issues until someone or something reminds us of the situation that hurt us. And when we are reminded, the pain sometimes erupts like a volcano of emotion because we never dealt with those feelings and the hurt that occurred in our past. Even when we try to address it at this point in our lives we can’t find the words to articulate the issues or the pain it causes. We just know that it hurts, because it takes us back to a dark place in our past that we vowed to never revisit.
Now imagine that you are the person that made the mistake and wants to make amends. However, nothing you can do or say changes the way the other person feels. How do you right the wrong? How do you take back what was said? How do you convince them to forgive you and move past this one? Really, how do you push through it?
Saying I’m sorry and admitting fault seems to be the most difficult thing for people to do. Society has shown us (especially our politicians) that even when caught red handed, deny guilt until the very end. So when someone actually admits fault, they have walked out on a very skinny branch. They have admitted they were wrong, imperfect and in essence vulnerable. And then it happens. The denial of forgiveness is for many of us validation that it doesn’t pay to open up and admit that you made a mistake.
Ironically, the very person that will not forgive us may have already expected that we would make a mistake. For them, it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” we would hurt or disappoint them. In other words, we were guilty until proven innocent. This is a subject for another post, but how could we ever win in this scenario.
I don’t have the answers to this one. I wish I did… trust me! So maybe the question isn’t “What more must I do to be forgiven?” Maybe we need to ask the other person “what do you need to do to forgive?”