It’s always easier to forgive someone who hurt you than drag it out for ages, but choosing to avoid the problem only causes more issues later on. I used to let things go way too easily and it only damaged my relationships further. More often than not, letting things slide only encourages people to keep doing the very thing that bothered or offended you to begin with. Whether it’s your partner, your coworker, or a relative, take the time to think about the next 10 things and see if you really are ready to forgive them.
Do they know what they’re apologizing for?
It’s very likely that the answer to this is a big NO. Apologizing isn’t meant to feel like a burden or something to check off a list – it has to be sincere. An apology can be dealt out like a stack of cards with each person seeing the same pretty design on the top, but for it to mean anything, the message on the other side has to be unique. Until the offender takes the time to understand why or how their actions affected you, they’ll never truly feel remorse for what they did–therefore not learning anything from their mistake.
Do you know what you need them to apologize for?
This may take a little more introspection than you expect. Usually, apologies are really straightforward–”I’m sorry for stealing your clothes,” “I’m sorry for drinking your coffee,” “I’m sorry for sleeping with your boyfriend”–pretty self-explanatory. But sometimes, the apology you need the most lies further below the surface. The coffee and the clothes weren’t the problems, it’s the ungratefulness you’ve felt for years that you really need them to acknowledge. It’s the apology you need to hear to completely move forward. Figure out what you need before moving forward.
How much time has passed since the initial incident?
No one likes a grudge-holder, but don’t be a pushover either. Only you will know the appropriate amount of time that should pass before you should start to address the dilemma. If you need space to think about what’s happened and what you need to happen before you can truly forgive the other person, then take it. Don’t rush yourself. Only time will allow you the clarity you need to step away from the issue and look at the bigger picture.
What do you need to happen before you can move on?
Lay out your plan, your ideal scenario for the perfect apology, and what will happen subsequently. Don’t tell the other person what this plan is–hold it in your mind and think about how reasonable it is. The chance of that person kissing your butt day in and day out until the end of time is very unlikely, so make sure it’s something they would actually do to earn your forgiveness. If even the most reasonable plan seems unlikely, chances are things are not going to go well.
Is this a habit?
Stopping something from happening again after just the first instance is easy, but stopping a mannerism that is months or years in the making is like trying not to sing along to your favorite song. It’s one thing to take a chance on the person you’re forgiving, but if you can be almost 100% sure they’ll hurt you again, how can you bring yourself to let them off the hook?
Is it forgivable?
As much as someone might beg for forgiveness, some things are just too painful to let go of. Even if it’s not necessarily painful sometimes you can’t find it within yourself to forgive that person–and that’s OK. You should never hold a grudge, but forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it should never be an option. You have the choice: you can forgive their actions and allow them a second chance to do the right thing, or not forgive them but find peace within yourself to let that anger go (and them as well).
Can you believe them?
Sometimes, even the most perfect apology can seem like a load of bull if you know the person well enough. In this situation, you’ll have to trust your gut and the tingly feeling at the base of your spine. If something isn’t coming off as sincere, it’s most likely because that person isn’t taking you seriously.
Why are you forgiving them?
Is it because you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, or because you don’t want to risk losing them forever? You should never prioritize the stability of the relationship over your own feelings or judgments. Ask yourself if you are giving him/her your forgiveness for your own benefit or theirs, and make sure you’re not giving the wrong person another chance at hurting you even worse.
What can you do to stop the incident from happening again?
This isn’t to say that you can control every bad thing from coming your way, but take a look back and see if there may have been anything that you did to make that person think that what they did was OK. Did that person not say thank you as often as they should have? Did you ever catch him/her in a lie and brushed it off instead of confronting them? Even the smallest things that go unacknowledged can be the stepping stones for anyone to disrespect you without realizing they’re doing something wrong.
Are you sure you can move on?
In certain situations, no amount of forgiveness can mend the relationship. To truly forgive someone doesn’t mean to forget what happened. To receive forgiveness is to be given a chance to learn from past mistakes, but to give it means you will not hold judgment against that person for the mistakes they once made. If you can’t find it within yourself to let go of the anger they incited in you or if you find instead the damage to be irreparable, then it’s best for both parties to go their own way and accept that one mistake was too much to forgive.
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