Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 4: Waiting for the Other to Apologize

So many people think that it is improper and perhaps even morally inappropriate to forgive when the other refuses to apologize.  “My waiting for the other to apologize shows that I have self-respect.  I will not put up with the injustice,” I have heard people say.

Yet, why is your self-respect tied to another’s behavior toward you?  Can’t you respect yourself for who you are as a person rather than waiting for another to affirm your importance as a person?

“But, if I wait for the apology, this is a protection for me and for the relationship.  The apology is a greater assurance that the other will not do this again.”

Yet, cannot you forgive from the heart and also ask fairness from the other before—before—he or she apologizes?  One does not achieve justice through only one path, in this case the other’s apology.

If you insist on the other’s apology before you forgive then you are saying this to yourself:  I will not allow myself the freedom to exercise mercy toward this person until he/she acts in a certain way (an apology in this case).  Do you see how you have curtailed your freedom, including your freedom to heal emotionally from the injustice?  Forgiveness has been shown scientifically to reduce anger, anxiety, and depression.  Your insistence on an apology may delay or even thwart your healing.

When you insist on the other’s apology before you forgive, you—you, not the other person—trap yourself in the prison of unforgiveness…..with its resentment and unhappiness.  This does not seem like the ethical thing to do.

Forgiving freely whether the other apologizes or not is the path to freedom, healing, and a clear-headed call to justice.


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Categories: Barriers to Forgiveness, Helpful Forgiveness Hint, Homework to Help, Misconceptions, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. Greg H says:

    Nice post. It makes a lot of sense that waiting for an apology is like waiting in a lonely restaurant for the friend who will never show up. Forgive and set yourself free.

  2. Harriet M. says:

    I understand why some insist on an apology. It is done for the one who offended. He or she needs to know how serious the offense is. Withholding forgiveness gives this person a chance to change. So withholding forgiveness until the other apologizes is a loving and sacrificial thing to do.

  3. Marta says:

    There are so many ways to request fairness and waiting for an apology is only one of them. If the only way to secure justice and to help another is to hold out for an apology, then I am all for the wait. But if there are other avenues, which of course there are, then the wait is unnecessary.

  4. Brian says:

    Waiting for an apology too often in my experience is a dead-end because people are not always so aware that they did anything wrong and so the apology doesn’t happen.


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