I will never forgive my ex- without his apology. Forgiveness is conditional, right? We should withhold forgiving until the other apologizes. This gives me a sense of respect.
Actually, forgiving unconditionally, without the other first apologizing, is important. Otherwise, you give the other person too much power over your own healing, over your own inner peace. Here is an essay from Psychology Today in which I defend the idea that forgiveness does not require an apology from the one who acted unjustly:
Why Forgiving Does Not Require an Apology
I have believed that one does not forgive unless the other person apologizes. You say differently. Can you give me at least 3 reasons why it is ok to forgive someone who does not apologize or even refuses to do so?
Yes, I can give you three reasons as follows: 1) There is no other moral virtue on the planet that has a rule connected to it that someone else must engage in a certain behavior or say certain words before you can engage in that virtue. For example, you can be patient whenever you wish. Also, you can be fair to others no matter the circumstances. Why now is forgiveness the only moral virtue that must not emerge until the other person utters those three words: “I am sorry?”; 2) Your waiting until the other apologizes gives that person tremendous power over you. You could be stuck with harmful resentment or even hatred if the other refuses to let you forgive and be free of this toxic anger; 3) Your free will as a person is hampered if you must await permission from the other (with the words, “I am sorry”) before you can forgive. Here is a fourth reason: Suppose the person passes away before saying the three words. You now are stuck with the resentment with no possibility of releasing that potentially harmful emotion for the rest of your life.
Do you think that forgiving is fuller when the other apologizes?
I do think that the other’s apology can aid the one forgiving to actually forgive more quickly. Yet, there is much more to the practice of forgiving than the other person’s apology. This idea of “fullness” depends on many issues such as these: a) how deeply the forgiver understands what forgiveness is and is not; b) how much practice the forgiver has had in forgiving those who have been unjust; c) how deeply angry or sad the forgiver is right now (in other words, the forgiver may need more time); and, d) how sincere the apology seems to be from the forgiver’s viewpoint. There is more to forgiving than these four issues, but my point is to say that apologies by themselves do not always lead to “fuller” forgiveness.
When I apologize, I like to explain my behavior so that the other person knows I did not mean to be hurtful. Is this a good idea to explain or should I only apologize and keep quiet about the reason for my actions?
When you apologize you do have to be careful not to make it sound as if the other person simply misunderstood you. In other words, your explanation might seem like an excuse to the one who was hurt. If you did wrong, you can admit to that. On the other hand, if you truly think you acted morally and the other took offense anyway, you might consider saying something like this: “I am sorry that my actions hurt you.” In this way, you are not saying that you did wrong, but you are acknowledging that what you did led to the other person’s negative reaction.
You say that an apology is not necessary for someone to forgive. Yet, isn’t an apology a good thing?
Yes, an apology from the one who offended can go a long way in helping a person to forgive and in repairing a damaged relationship. Yet, I say it is not necessary because forgiving is an unconditional response by the one offended. Offended people should be able to forgive whenever they are ready and have chosen to forgive. This is a freedom that belongs to those who are offended.