The thirteenth of 15 criticisms that I so characteristically see on-line about forgiveness is this: Forgiving is a sign of disrespecting the offending person because it does not give that person the chance to repent and change behavior.
You can forgive and then support the person in repenting and changing behavior. There is no rule of human behavior that states that a person cannot repent once you initiate forgiveness toward that person.
Once you have walked the path of forgiving, I recommend an attempt at reconciliation. One can slowly rebuild trust with what I call the 3 R’s of remorse, repentance, and recompense. Remorse is an inner sorrow. Is the other genuinely sorry for what happened? Repentance is words that express remorse. Has the person genuinely apologized, truly meaning it (and you usually can tell a phony repentance from a sincere one by seeing the other’s emotions). Recompense is trying to make up for what happened, within reason. Has the other tried to change so that the injustices now are minimized or even eliminated? It can take time to see that recompense is occurring on a consistent level, but as you see this more stable change, trust can begin to emerge.
Reconciliation is different from forgiveness. When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly. Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation. So, you can forgive without reconciling.
With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):
1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did? We call this remorse;
2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you. We call this repentance;
3) Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends. For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way). We call this recompense;
4) If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person? If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship. Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?
I am back with my boyfriend after several months of being apart. I am apprehensive, not trusting much, because of his past hurts. Have I reconciled, I mean truly reconciled, if I cannot trust yet?
Being together does not necessarily mean that you are reconciled. Reconciliation includes trust, but trust is earned back inch-by-inch. Does your boyfriend show you signs that he has remorse (sadness for what he did)? Does he show repentance (saying he is sorry)? Does he engage in recompense (behaviorally trying to make up for what he did and behaviorally showing he is trustworthy)? Keep these three issues in mind (remorse, repentance, and recompense) as a way to build your trust so that you can achieve a true reconciliation.
Because trust is part of reconciliation, it is possible to come together again and then work on that trust. The other may have to earn back that trust a little at a time if the betrayal was deep. You can begin to trust when you see what I call the 3 Rs in the other: remorse (genuine inner sorrow seen in the other’s eyes), repentance (an apology that flows from the genuine inner sorrow) and recompense (truly trying to right the wrong). Please be patient as these three in the other may take some time and your trust may build slowly.