Maybe you did not intentionally treat someone badly, but if they were hurt, you must accept that you did. Perhaps it stemmed from a misunderstanding, or maybe you were focused on your own needs and disregarded the other person. Whatever happened, yes, sometimes we do or say something that hurts someone enough that we will not be forgiven. It takes a lot for some people to forgive others actions.
When you encounter a situation in which you seek forgiveness and it is withheld, your reaction will be key in determining how both you and the other person move on from this moment. What do you do when someone won’t forgive you?
Ironically, a common reaction to being confronted with someone else’s hurt is anger. We are quick to become defensive and even feel that we are being treated unfairly because the person is blaming us for their pain. The accusation of hurting someone, whether appropriate or not, can cause feelings of rejection or inadequacy. Getting mad delays feeling these underlying emotions. This type of reaction, anger, and feeling hurt ourselves, is an ego-driven reaction. This type of reaction completely shifts focus from the person we’ve hurt and selfishly only focuses on ourselves. If you find this is your initial instinct, it is very important that you step back and reflect. The other person’s hurt forces an uncomfortable truth- I’m capable of hurting someone. We are all capable of hurting other people, including you. Let that fact in. Don’t lose sight of this truth by focusing only on your own sense of injustice.
Try to make amends. If you are sorry, say so. After you have apologized, take action that will show the person you are sorry. When some time has gone by, say you’re sorry again. It is worth repeating. Do not offer your apology with an expectation of forgiveness. The other person does not need to absolve you of the hurt you caused them just because you are sorry. Making amends is about showing contrition or remorse for what has occurred. While it will not free you of having hurt someone, it will make you feel better to do what you can to make up. No matter how egregiously you treated someone, don’t retreat. Do what you can to make the other person feel better. If you use your shame or guilt as an excuse to hide and not face the person you hurt, you will only make the situation worse.
Don’t minimize what you have done. Your actions affect other people and it is important to fully take that knowledge in. Try to understand your actions and accept responsibility for them. Once you have reflected on the situation, when you have tried to make amends, then it is time to forgive yourself. Accept that you are human and you are fallible. You will make mistakes and you deserve forgiveness from yourself.
Lastly, someone’s refusal to forgive you is a reflection of them, not you, or the event that you’re seeking forgiveness for. Staying mad shows a lack of maturity on their part and could prevent them from moving forward, but once you have accepted responsibility for your part and done what you can to make amends, there is nothing more you can do for that person.
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