Social Skills

How Do You Deal With Someone Who Won’t Forgive You

Discover ways on how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you, according to experts.

Here are their insights:

Fully forgive yourself and you won’t need their forgiveness

When someone won’t forgive you, it says as much about them as it does you.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s best-selling book “The Four Agreements,” one of the agreements is to never take anything personally. How personally are you taking this other person’s lack of forgiveness?

Which brings me to shame; If you shame yourself for your behavior, you are keeping yourself locked in that story of how you “wronged” someone else.

Fully forgive yourself and release that shame, and you won’t need their forgiveness.

I have a patient who had an affair while her husband was away for an extended period. She told him about it, and he couldn’t forgive her. So, she forgave herself.

She saw that when she was younger, she was ignored by her parents and never felt loved or appreciated. She saw the other man in her life as filling that need that was never filled in her youth.

She did not deny responsibility or the fact it was wrong, but she understood why she craved attention and then began giving that attention to the little abandoned girl inside of her.

The little girl her parents rejected was still inside, and she was going to give her younger self the loving, forgiving attention that she sought in the other man.

We are all innocent at our core.

She came to see that she was innocent. If she had her attachment needs met as a child, she would not seek to satisfy her need for connection outside of her marriage.

If we don’t get our needs met in constructive ways, we will find destructive ways (like having an affair). We are all innocent at our core, and we do things that are “wrong” to get our needs met in whatever way we can.

Forgiving yourself allows others to forgive you.

After she forgave herself for the affair, a strange thing happened; her husband forgave her too.

As she was not projecting out the shame and guilt she felt, her husband spontaneously saw his part in starving her for attention and asked her for forgiveness.

Once we don’t take anything personally and forgive ourselves, we don’t need it so much from others, and they just might give it to us anyway.

Alex Greenwald (MHC-LP)

Alex Greenwald

Licensed Therapist, Empower Your Mind Therapy

Think about how you might have apologized

Did you really apologize? Like, for real? Take a step back and think about how you might have apologized.

  • Did you assign blame?
  • Stop to listen to the other person’s side of the story?
  • Honestly and openly accept responsibility for what occurred?

It might be that the apology was not genuine enough, or you didn’t listen to their side of the story enough for the person to accept.

Think about your approach. How’s your tone and body language when talking with this person?

If it is hostile or distant, they might not want to approach you and forgive, but if you offer loving kindness and respect, they might accept and move forward with your relationship.

Don’t keep bringing up the past. This will make the incident front of mind and come off as insincere, as though you desire forgiveness over their own feelings.

Give it some time. Everyone processes emotions differently, and the person might just need space to cool off and heal.

It’s not about you. Remember that you’ve done all you can to apologize for a misstep. At a certain point, you need to understand your own worth and know that chasing forgiveness is sometimes futile.

Some people like to hold on to resentment, and it has nothing to do with you. Just focus on yourself and how you treat those around you, knowing that you’ve done all you can to apologize sincerely.

Rachel Duffy

Rachel Duffy

Certified Conscious Parenting & Leadership Coach, Sagacity Lab

Forgive yourself first

When we have wronged someone, offended them, or hurt them, we can ask for forgiveness. When they forgive us, we feel relief, and then we can continue the relationship.

What happens, though, when they refuse to forgive us?

First, we need to remember that asking for an apology is one part of forgiveness, but it’s not the important part. We may think that because we said “I’m sorry,” we deserve to be forgiven.

Most of the time, though, forgiveness doesn’t really happen until we change our behavior that led to the incident in the first place.

Sometimes — like in family relationships — the hurt goes deep and is related to a dynamic between two people that has a history, a charge, and perhaps a pattern. In those cases, forgiveness requires patience, time, and acceptance that someone may not be ready to work through the issue.

Related: The 9 Best Books on Forgiveness and Letting Go

The ability to hold space for another to work through their own process of forgiveness can only occur in us when we have forgiven ourselves for the offense.

Before we ask another to forgive us, we must ask ourselves:

  • Was my behavior in any way indicative of hurt feelings or emotional needs I have within me that I need to work through?
  • Why is it that I feel the need to be forgiven?
    • Is it because I am triggered, perhaps, by being unable to forgive myself?
    • Is it because I require validation from another person to reassure me of my “goodness”?

Additionally, sometimes another person’s inability to forgive has nothing to do with us, but rather with their own unresolved issues around judgment and forgiveness.

In order to forgive (different from condoning), one must be in a place of acceptance of what happened, acceptance of how things unfolded, and acceptance of the result. When the offending side is not ready to forgive, it may be because they have yet to heal the trauma caused by the event we were involved in.

Ultimately, we have no control over what another person does. We can and should ask for forgiveness, we can and should change our behavior, but we can’t make someone else forgive us.

The question is: Are we able to be whole within ourselves without another person’s forgiveness?

That is 100% possible if we do our own inner work and really understand our own emotional needs. When we are whole within ourselves, we can tolerate someone else’s lack of forgiveness because we are 100% accountable for our part in it.

Andrea Hipps, LBSW

Andrea Hipps

Certified Divorce Coach | Author of the forthcoming book, “The Best Worst Time of Your Life: Four Practices to Get You Through the Pain of Divorce”

Allow them the time to process

Forgiveness is both a decision and a process. We crave instant redemption, but it rarely happens that way. The decision to forgive is complicated and brings along with it all kinds of resistance, especially close to the time of the offense.

Offer your understanding of that to the other person with a phrase like, “This was big. It may take time for us to reconnect, but I’m willing to give you the time you need to process it fully.”

Own your part

When forgiveness isn’t issued immediately, we get defensive. We tell our story to whoever will listen, and it solidifies in our mind that we have apologized and are now deserving of forgiveness.

The better way to go about it? Humbly own your part, and allow that your action or inaction had a bigger impact than you thought. Make the story less about how they won’t forgive you and more about what you learned or how to do or be better next time.

Offer an opening

We tend to be more successful when we thoughtfully put big emotions in writing. When forgiveness is not forthcoming, let the person know in writing that you’re always available to revisit the topic when they are ready.

Allow them the time to process, acknowledge your part in the hurt, and then extend the opening to reconnect when the time seems right for them, not you.

Rich Schaus

Rich Schaus

Addiction Recovery and Leadership Expert | Executive Director, Gospel Rescue Mission Muskogee

Make a plan to come back to them at some time but keep moving on and keep healing

At the Gospel Rescue Mission in Muskogee, we hang out with men and women who have made some mistakes. Some have made minor mistakes in life that got them fired or discouraged. Most of these men and women, though, have made some pretty serious mistakes.

These mistakes have led to jail time, broken relationships, and long-term health consequences. Some of these men and women have hit an emotional bottom and are ready to make some life changes.

They dedicate themselves to personal discipline. They commit to investing in their physical, mental, spiritual, and social lives. The work they do is often difficult, and they must learn to cope with the world using new skills they were not taught as children.

Among the work that they will do is forgiving others for the hurt they have done to them. When they get to this phase of their growth, they must swallow a larger dose of courage than ever before.

Related: How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally

I feel a great deal of pride in walking with these men and women through this step, knowing it is difficult and knowing that the freedom it brings is powerful.

Once that is done, they often feel ready to go make amends. We encourage them to take this slowly since they have been growing and changing; they see the world differently than those they hurt. Sometimes decades have gone by, and the hurt has been festering.

These guests of the mission come back and express deep hurt when loved ones don’t see the changes.

We remind them that the hurt they caused was not just a one-time deal. Even if they only did it once, the other person may have been playing it in their head since their last visit.

Our main advice is to know that they are different.

Don’t determine your identity based on what others think of you. There are almost always lots of people and organizations that you will need to make amends to, so don’t get too hung up on the one that won’t forgive you.

Make a plan to come back to them at some time but keep moving on, keep healing and keep growing.

Most importantly, know who you are now; You are not your past mistakes.

Yocheved Golani

Yocheved Golani

Content Provider Specializing in Medical and Mental Health Topics | Editor, E-Counseling

Respect yourself and the other person even if forgiveness is not forthcoming

As tempers flare over Plandemic theories, QAnon, and other fictitious fares such as Jews with space lasers, people find it hard to forgive or even tolerate each other.

Related: Why Is It so Hard to Forgive Someone?

The Covid-19 lockdowns have given people too much time to think and too little time functioning in society. The result has been an escalating level of moodiness that undermines social relationships. Extended periods of isolation can have that effect on people.

The end result is that neither side wins a debate; they simply remain stubborn, probably rude, and unforgiving of each other. There is one way to end the standoff, even if it’s a power struggle at work, in the family, or at school, that has nothing to do with isolation or conspiracy theories.

Respecting boundaries is the linchpin for social interaction. If you need to deal with someone who simply won’t forgive you:

  • Refrain from arguing your point or any point, even the other person’s.
  • Insist that each of you can respect each other without believing a particular line of thought.
  • Announce in a pleasant way that you hope that they will respect your ability to think for yourself, that you respect their ability to think for him or herself, and that coercion is not the same as choice.

You choose what to believe, what to desire, and what to do. Explain that you will behave this way in regard to them and to their points of view. Never engage in debating your points again.

Let them go. The only issue from now on is to respect each other’s boundaries.

There was a time when college students heard their instructors announce that a campus is a place to encounter an array of worldviews, opinions, and various cultures to learn tolerance for them and expand one’s level of awareness.

Such thinking led to social sophistication and mutual respect.

Sadly, such tolerance for divergent points of view has deteriorated into blizzards of campus Snowflakes who hide in Safe Rooms when they feel “triggered” by thoughts that they dislike. A pointless rationale for selfishness, social justice mindsets has damaged socialization skills.

The life lesson to be learned is that rather than retreating into your mind and your mind only, you need to have the pleasantness of character to be patient, compassionate, and non-argumentative.

Respect boundaries. Forcing other people to agree with you isn’t a matter of choice; it is coercion, bullying, and tyranny.

Go on with your life respecting yourself and the other person, even if forgiveness is not forthcoming. Boundaries are something to respect. By ending your participation in an argument, you free yourself to go forward with optimism and joy.

Be willing to assess, apologize, acknowledge, and accept self-forgiveness

Before a single unintended text was sent, an unkind post was sent on social media, or the first argument over masks commenced, there was drama in this country.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of America’s founding fathers, were both delegates to the Continental Congress and served as diplomats in Europe, and Adams selected Jefferson to pen the Declaration of Independence.

But differing opinions on foreign policy, a division between party lines, and divisive gossip soured a once sweet friendship.

Benjamin Rush, a mutual friend of both men, wrote to both men encouraging them to make amends. He described them as the “North and South Poles of the American Revolution.”

This fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence suggested to the two feuding founding fathers that the other was desirous to see their friendship rekindle.

He told Adams that he dreamt that the two would renew their relationship, discuss past issues, make amends, and sink “into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country.” Rush was successful in starting correspondence between the two feuding men.

But Rush’s dream did more than spark a reconciliation — it proved to be prophetic. Jefferson and Adams passed on the same day, July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of Independence Day.

Adams’ last words were: ”Thomas Jefferson still lives.”

These two renowned men were able to find a place of forgiveness. But it is not always so easy to find. We all hurt other people, knowingly and unknowingly.

But what should we do when the other party is unwilling or unable to forgive us?

Assess

The first step is to assess the situation. Whether it was an unkind word said in jest, a less than smooth business dealing, a snarky comment made in the heat of the moment, or a family spat that got personal, the most important first step is to take a hard look at the reality.

Are you in the wrong? For what do you need to take responsibility? What might you have done differently? If given a chance, would you do it differently the next time?

For one summer in my youth, I worked at a local pool as a lifeguard. I wanted a way to help others and thought that saving drowning swimmers and being a hero sounded so epic.

When I trained to be a lifeguard, I thought it would look a lot like being an actress on the Baywatch cast. Instead, it was a lot of pool chemicals, sitting in the scorching heat, sunblock, and sweat pooling my sunglasses incessantly.

One afternoon, I watched through my sunglasses as a young family sauntered into the pool area. There were two ladies, one older and one younger. I can only assume the older one was Grandma. Grandma brought the three young children in the water while the “mom” figure sat with a book in her hand by the pool.

And then my eyes scanned to the other part of the pool.

About halfway through the scan on the way back, her arms began to flail. As the young children looked on, fitted with floaties and enough sunscreen on their noses, the older woman slipped under the water yet again. The arms never stopped flailing.

This was it. This was when my career as a hero truly began, or so I thought.

I climbed down the lifeguard tower in record time. I am not even sure that my feet hit the pavement before I plunged into the pool. I swam toward the woman who had since come up for air and then fallen back under the water.

When I reached her, I could almost hear the sound of clapping. I knew there were awards and accolades in my future for saving this woman’s life. I am sure there is some kind of Nobel prize for lifeguards, and I was certain to get one for protecting this woman and snatching this woman from the clutches of death. Or so I thought.

When I reached her, all but her arms were fully submerged. When I grabbed her, I pushed off the floor of the pool to make sure I had the momentum to get both of us above the water.

When I locked eyes with her, I cloaked a smile of smugness. She did not cloak her true feelings, however. Gratitude beyond all measure? Nope. Awe of my strength? Not that either. Awareness of the frailty of life? Negative, Ghostrider.

Disgust? Yep. That’s the one. She was trying to make her grandkids giggle, and I had ruined her plans. She was not drowning; she was showing off.

When we both caught our breath, she barked at me for being foolish. She chastised me in front of her grandkids for misunderstanding. In indignation, they left the pool, packed their things, and marched out of the gates.

She left me with the words, “You idiot! I didn’t need your help!”

My wounded pride, soggy bathing suit, and I sat back on the lifeguard chair for the rest of my shift. The words of the woman kept ringing in my chlorinated ears: “You idiot…”

Although I tried to make it right with repeated apologies, she wasn’t having it. In the weeks that followed, she made loud, disparaging remarks when she walked past the pool.

Obviously, this is one silly example to illustrate a deeper meaning. But if we have done our best to extend forgiveness and the injured party is not willing to accept our apology, we need to continue taking the steps we can take to find freedom.

Apologize

The next step is to tread the path of apology. We must make sure when we apologize; we should focus the energy on the other party, and not us or our shame for that which we did.

Listening to the other party about the offense and how it affected him/her can make a huge difference in making them feel valued and heard.

Take responsibility, acknowledge that the action or word was harmful and express remorse. Be specific and be genuine.

Acknowledge

Once those steps have been taken, a vital part of the “making amends” portion of many addiction organizations is to decide the steps needed to make it right.

It might mean committing to avoid future harm, going to therapy, participating in anger management, extending greater empathy, or cultivating personal growth.

Only make promises and commitments you intend to keep.

Accept self-forgiveness

For some, forgiving oneself may be the hardest step. Beating ourselves up for mistakes we have made, words we have misspoken, and patterns of poor choices are easy.

Releasing the guilt of those choices, asking for forgiveness, and then accepting that forgiveness is another thing altogether. But forgiving oneself is a necessary step in all healthy relationships.

Sometimes, we hurt others because somewhere along the line, someone has hurt us. Although it in no way excuses hurtful behavior, it can be a catalyst for us to change our behavior, uncover the root cause of the issues, and experience the healing we need to avoid hurting others in the future.

Forgiveness can be a tricky thing indeed. It is no mistake that the word forgiveness contains the word “give.” It is both a gift to ask for and extend forgiveness to another.

Even when that person is unwilling to accept our offers for peace and reconciliation, the very act of asking for forgiveness is one of the keys to better relationships.

If we are willing to assess, apologize, acknowledge, and accept self-forgiveness, we lay the groundwork for health and freedom for both ourselves and the one we wronged.

Michelle Devani

Michelle Devani

Relationship Expert | Founder, lovedevani

Forgiveness is tough to give, especially if the other party has done something excruciating. If you ask for forgiveness, you should understand that what you did impacts the person, and forgiveness is very hard to give when you are genuinely hurt.

It would be best if you had longer patience and understanding until the person decides to forgive you. It would help if you also exerted more effort so that the other person realizes you are worthy of forgiveness.

Moreover, here are my tips to people when dealing with someone who doesn’t accept their apology:

Learn to wait for the right time to ask forgiveness

As I have mentioned, forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, especially if you have done so much to hurt that person deeply. Most of the time, forcing forgiveness doesn’t help.

Instead, knowing the right timing to ask for it and give the other person the time to heal helps him forgive quickly.

Related: What Is Forgiveness and Why Is It Important?

Gain their trust back by letting them see you are willing to change

Let them see that you are sorry for what you did and are willing to change or improve for the better. When a person is hurt, the trust is also damaged.

We have to understand that they will be extra scared to forgive and trust because they no longer want to feel the same feeling when you hurt them.

Randi Levin

Randi Levin

Transitional Life Strategist, Randi Levin Coaching

Learn from what happened, seek to resolve, and move forward with or without the other person

When someone refuses to forgive you, it is difficult to get closure on a mistake or misunderstanding. That may leave you feeling guilty and even victimized.

The truth is that everyone makes mistakes.

When someone holds a grudge and refuses to forgive, it perpetuates a negative narrative and erodes the relationship. If you have tried to resolve the issue and they still won’t forgive you, then this speaks to the other person’s limitations, not to yours.

The best thing you can do is to control the one thing that you can: your relationship with yourself.

Forgiving yourself in any misunderstanding is the first step toward moving on. The best way to do so is to learn from what happened, seek to resolve, and then move forward with or without the other person.

Forgiveness lives on the other side of acceptance. Accept the situation and then shine some self-love your own way. You can only change how you grow, not how anyone else does.

Danielle Ingenito

Danielle Ingenito

Expert in Healing After Toxic Relationships | Certified Intuitive Reiki Master | Medium & Life Coach

Letting it go is the only thing you can do

If someone doesn’t forgive you, letting it go is the only thing you can do. I know this seems harsh, but the truth is that people have their own baggage that they carry.

You might have made a mistake, and it might have been terrible, but if someone won’t forgive you, then it’s time to detach from this person and let it go. If you have tried saying and showing them that you are sorry and they still haven’t forgiven you, then there is nothing more you can do.

The truth is, you have broken their trust in you, and trust is tough to get back.

If you obsess over this person not forgiving you, then something is happening on a deeper level within yourself. Not being able to get their forgiveness could be triggering something from the past.

This means that the real problem isn’t this person you hurt, but it could bring up some memories of when this kind of thing happened before.

Examples of these triggers could be something like getting the silent treatment as a child when you upset a parent, a parent abandoning you, people putting you down, making you feel like you were not good enough.

To deal with someone who won’t forgive you:

  • Try to accept that you made a mistake, which does not make you a bad person.
  • Identify where this has happened before in your life, which leads to you being triggered.
  • Work on healing that part of you and let go of needing the person to forgive you.

When you have identified where this has happened before, releasing the energy around that situation will help you let go and stop needing forgiveness from the current person.

Nina Anders

Nina Anders

Life and Style Blogger, Sharing a Journey

Make sure you have fully apologized without adding a bunch of excuses

That is what I’ve come to learn as I struggled for years to forgive others. One of the things that made it most difficult to forgive was when trying to forgive someone who refused to apologize.

In not apologizing, they were not taking responsibility for having caused hurt, and in not acknowledging they had wronged me, I couldn’t begin to move on.

When a person doesn’t forgive, they carry the pain and are still seeking to hold the other responsible. This is a choice they have the right to make.

No one is required to forgive. No one can be made to forgive; they either do, or they don’t.

Once they have decided to forgive, they also have the choice as to whether to continue to associate with the person who wronged them. They may forgive but choose not to continue the relationship.

In many cases, this is the healthiest response to deep hurt or dealing with a repeat offender.

If you have someone in your life who won’t forgive you, make sure you have fully apologized. An apology goes like this: “I am so sorry I hurt you. I will never do ____ again.”

When you apologize, don’t add in a bunch of excuses, and keep your word. You may find that it will take time to earn trust again.

Trust is earned over time, and you earn it by keeping your word.

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