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.
I was raised in an abusive family situation and now my trust is damaged. When my husband apologizes, I have a very hard time believing that he actually has remorse. How can I train myself to see and believe the remorse that is displayed while the apology is said?
Remorse is an inner sorrow for unjust actions while repentance is the outward expression, such as an apology, of that inner sorrow. In the 1970’s the psychiatrist R.C. Hunter stated, and I think he is correct, that most of us, even those who are not trained as mental health professionals, can identify false forms of forgiveness. There is what he called a certain smug-like quality to insincere forgiving or seeking forgiveness. Therefore, are you getting a sense of anything “smug” in his response of apology to you? Look into his eyes. Are those eyes trying to hide something or is there an openness to you, to your hurt? As another quality in your husband that might help you, has he shown an interest in what I call recompense or making it right again for you? The 3 Rs of remorse (genuine inner sorrow seen in his eyes), repentance (an apology that flows from the genuine inner sorrow) and recompense (truly trying to right the wrong) may be a more full indicator for you of your husband’s genuine attempt at the fourth R: reconciliation with you.
My adult grandson keeps asking me for a loan of money. I give it, he does not pay it back, and then he says that he “forgives” himself for the lack of payment. He then asks me for more money. Is self-forgiveness really this kind of illusion?
While genuine self-forgiveness can be helpful when people break their own moral standard, in the case of false self-forgiveness, the person may “self-forgive” as an excuse to remain in inappropriate and hurtful behavior. In such a case as your adult grandson, the false forgiveness might reduce guilt, freeing the person to continue the lack of payment with the resultant wasting of your funds. I think it is time for a heart-to-heart talk with him. He is fooling himself (but he is not fooling you) regarding what self-forgiveness actually is. In genuine self-forgiveness, there is an inner remorse, a genuine repentance to you, and reparation, in this case repaying the debt.