In an ideal world, none of us would make mistakes or need to beg forgiveness. That would have to be a future populated by robotic beings led by machine intelligence.
Mistakes are the norm in the actual world. So is seeking forgiveness.
Forgiveness is difficult to get if you do not feel or express your folly, and do not apologize. However, some people will not accept your heartfelt apologies and will not forgive you.
But we need their forgiveness just as much as we need to forgive our frail selves.
How To Make Someone Forgive You For Hurting Them
You hurt them. But you quickly regretted it.
Only a few people have the will or courage to forgive us without our having to ask. So you went to ask for their forgiveness. But they won’t forgive you.
So, how do we get their forgiveness when they are reluctant?
Here are some ways you could make someone forgive you:
1. Make them see your painful state.
Empathy and compassion can help people forgive and let go of their anger easier.
Empathy is the understanding of how they are feeling after our wrongdoing. It is about walking in their shoes trying to feel the same emotions and think the same thoughts as they do.
Empathy is effective in making someone forgive you.
Let them know that you are going through many hurtful emotions.
Helping them see and feel your distress can persuade them to accept your forgiveness.
Show and tell them that you want them to understand your pain, anger, sorrow, sadness, regret, and fear.
You would notice them becoming more willing to forgive you to reduce those feelings.
This is because it takes away their excuses of denial to understand your anguish, making them feel sorry for your plight and eager to make things normal again.
2. Offer them a half-apology until they can forgive you fully.
Sometimes, a hurt person may not be able to forgive you completely in one go.
But they can see that your incomplete apology means you have assumed responsibility for your misdeed and will accept the consequences of your actions.
It shows the person you hurt that you have a conscience. It is a way to let go of the anger and hatred that often results from being hurt.
A Complete Apology comes with five in-built conditions in the following sequence:
- Acceptance: Acceptance of their mistake.
- Remorse: Telling you that they are regretful.
- Humility: Asking for your forgiveness with humility.
- Assurance: Assuring that they won’t repeat it in the future.
- Correction: Asking you what do you expect them to do to set things right.
Most often, a full apology is not justified by the belief that you were not entirely wrong to have offended them. Perhaps you took the action in retaliation for a mistake they made long back.
Their conscience may be preventing them from accepting unconditional apologies because they fear that full forgiveness may encourage a repeat of your misbehavior.
Offer the half-apology while keeping your doors open for the full version.
Forgiveness may come in installments. When we want someone to forgive us completely, all of it may not come at once.
The sufferer may keep checking our post-apology behavior and forgive us in limited ways as they feel safer and more assured.
Keep that in mind and do not ruin your victim’s healing process by demanding quick forgiveness.
3. Create the right environment for forgiveness.
A crucial thing is to build an environment for reciprocal respect when they ask for your forgiveness.
It starts with finding the right time and space for both of you.
Inviting them to a celebratory event, like your birthday or wedding anniversary, may give them the courage to forgive you.
They will be aware that it is a special occasion for you and you may have invited them to help restore normalcy in your relationship.
If they bring in any little gesture of goodwill, such as flowers or a present, it can show that the other person is willing to put in some effort to accept your appeals of forgiveness.
It’s difficult to forgive those who have wronged us. We often push them away and spend more time thinking about what they did wrong rather than trying to find a solution. The same would be true for those who have wronged us.
Allow them time and space to process their shock at our wrongdoing. Inform them, via message or email, that you feel sorry about the incident and would like to speak with them about it when they are ready.
Ask when would be a good time for them to have that conversation. If they agree, let them choose a place to meet so that they feel safe. You may suggest a few places, like a barista or a bistro.
4. Try to remain transparent and honest.
One of the most important conditions for forgiveness is being honest about the mistake.
Take full responsibility for your mistake with complete integrity, without hedging or hemming.
You must not lie about it, nor should you talk about it as if it were a small misstep.
Offer them a simple acceptance.
Do not say, “It wasn’t entirely my fault. It was the circumstance. What could I possibly have done about it?”
Doing so only adds more fuel to their anger or bitterness.
In any case, if an apology is dishonest, they will find out about it later, which will only make things worse.
If they see you are feeling guilty, they will accept it as a way forward.
People who do not feel guilty are often social skunks who believe they are so entitled that they have never made a mistake.
Scientists tell us that guilt and shame have a negative association with narcissistic people, particularly the grandiose subtype (Czarna, 2014).
It means that the more a person’s narcissism, the less guilty they feel. But guilt is good as it prompts us to mend our ways and ask for forgiveness.
5. Write an apology letter.
Writing a sincere apology letter is a good way to keep a record of how hard you tried to make them forgive you.
Writing someone instead of speaking to them is a better approach to asking for forgiveness.
- First, you can present your thoughts in a neatly arranged way.
- Second, they may re-read parts of your apology letter to better understand your perspective.
Write your words of apology from the heart, do not copy from a template.
Many people prefer to deliver the letter in person rather than mail it. Writing can help clear our minds and arrange our thoughts neatly.
After that, it is vital you refrain from contacting this person until they accept your apology.
Finally, if they reject your apology, it’s best not to try again because they may interpret it as your attempt to guilt-trip them.
6. Wait patiently for normalcy and full forgiveness.
Forgiveness is often a long-drawn process. Not everyone can forgive easily or quickly. Sometimes, it may take years and many apologies to be fully forgiven. So, do not rush it.
Forgiveness may come late because of the misperceptions they have against forgiving. They may feel that forgiving is to appear weak or condone the act.
Some people think holding on to the hurt is more manageable than accepting an insincere apology, so they wait before extending forgiveness.
Another reason for the late forgiveness may be the victim feels the pain of the hurt is too unbearable to allow forgiveness promptly.
Many think non-forgiveness is an effective excuse to keep that person away from their life.
If not forgiven, the perpetrator will have doubts about trying to reconnect or reconcile, and may finally give up their attempts.
Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, a retired criminal profiler who has studied and investigated serial killers for more than 20 years, says one may successfully move on and heal themselves without forgiving the wrongdoer.
She even feels that forcing or faking forgiveness can slow down or block the healing process.
If they don’t forgive you, accept that and move on.
7. Apologizing again, after they have forgiven you.
Apologize again if necessary after they have accepted your apology because people tend to feel uneasy about forgiving.
They often feel as if forgiving was the right thing to do because they are not sure if you would do the same thing again.
It’s also important to find out if the other person is still angry or upset with us. If they are still sad or resentful, it is almost imperative to apologize again, unless they have cut off all contact with us.
The good thing is, that most of us understand when our mistakes have caused deep emotional distress.
When we hurt people we care about, the guilt makes us feel terrible, so we want to apologize. We feel we can’t move on until we know we’ve said “I’m sorry” to the people we’ve hurt.
It is often difficult to make someone forgive you for your grave mistakes, but it is not entirely impossible. It could take time, but we could get it done with a little effort.
Psychology of Getting Forgiveness
Psychology defines forgiveness as a deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward those who harmed you, irrespective of whether they deserve your forgiveness.
Our desire for forgiveness has some scientific basis.
Research points out that forgiveness involves giving up the demand to punish the wrongdoer and decreasing negative feelings towards them.
t also entails seeing the event from a neutral point of view and full acceptance.
Of course, we are all human, and that is why we make mistakes. Also, as humans, we are naturally forgiving and understanding. We care for people in our society, and we love our close ones.
We usually forgive others usually if their sins are not too grave. We feel we almost have to accept the mistakes we have made and ask for forgiveness. So, when we make mistakes, we expect others to understand us and similarly forgive us.
Now, the thing is sometimes we get forgiven easily, and sometimes it takes a long effort to get our forgiveness.
- The degree of emotional pain people feel after we harm them is one aspect that influences whether or not they forgive us easily.
- The degree of grief we experience is determined by the nature of our error, how much we wounded them, how horrible they felt about it, and how remorseful we are.
Research shows harboring anger, resentment, and malevolence can have a detrimental impact on our physical and emotional health and our relationships (Gordon et al., 2009).
Moreover, when people report higher levels of forgiveness, they also tend to report healthier habits and low levels of depression, anxiety, and anger.
Forgiveness does not imply that you concede wrongdoing is acceptable. It doesn’t mean you want the hurtful person to accept you back in the relationship. Rather, forgiveness is the decision to accept what has happened is now a part of the past, and it is not helpful to linger on what should have happened instead.
Why It Is Difficult To Make Someone Forgive Us
The biggest problem is when they seek our apology, we say a few words to show we are apologizing, but we use a copious number of words to defend our action. We even go aggressive in the defense of our hurtful behavior.
When confronted, we point out we did it for the best of both of us, but could not understand how it hurt them. It is precisely this that makes many of our close ones find they cannot forgive us. They are not sure if our apology is genuine and if we will ever take reparative action to set things right.
Since we do not promise to not repeat our actions, they are also unsure if we deserve their forgiveness. So, even when they choose to forgive us, they may not truly do so.
As hard as it may be to believe, some of us believe forgiveness is a learned behavior. We go about our lives thinking the person will forgive us because, over the years, we have habituated them into forgiving us. So, they will forgive us every time we utter “Sorry.”
Let’s get this right. Never torture the victim into forgiving you. Their forgiving has nothing to do with how we feel because our apologies went unresponded.
Many people have a hard time forgiving others who have hurt them, and some of the most common reasons are fear of retribution, guilt, and self-blame. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but there are some things you can do to help ease your way.
We often spend a great deal of time getting our point across rather than listening to what others have to say. If you are one of those, you probably should learn the art of listening to someone attentively before telling people your side of the story.
Another mistake is what you’re going to tell them could be an excuse dolled up as an explanation. So, make sure what you are about to say is not a justification or defense.
Forgiveness can’t be forced, but something to be humbly asked for.
The first rule is to humbly ask them to forgive you. Don’t expect forgiveness if you don’t ask for it with humility.
Even if a person is gracious enough to forgive us without asking, they may do so with sadness in their heart. They forgive us, but they also suffer a great deal of unspoken pain every time our past actions trigger their memory.
The best way to get someone to forgive us is to show we understand we caused them to hurt. When asking for forgiveness, we must genuinely care about what they have to say. At all times, we must be respectful of their boundaries.
The key is to show that you have a great wish to change yourself for the better and not repeat your hurtful act. Once you have done that, you can start thinking about how to follow through with your promises.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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