When you experience hurtful situations, you may not always get an apology. Forgiveness and acceptance are two ways you can cope with the situation.
You may have felt wronged by someone who refuses to apologize or says “sorry,” and it doesn’t lead to changed behavior. You may not receive the apology you believe you deserve.
You may feel sad, overwhelmed, or even angry at the person who hurt you. If you’re resentful, this may be a signal to make amends or work toward accepting the situation.
If you can better understand why someone doesn’t apologize to you, this could help you cope. As a result, you can choose how you want to move forward. Whatever you decide, moving on from the situation is possible.
There are many reasons someone might not apologize when they’ve done something you perceive as wrong. The person may not see the situation the same way as you. Other times, they may not want to accept responsibility for their actions.
If someone has hurt or offended you, they may feel uncomfortable dealing with the guilt and shame surrounding their behavior. It may be challenging for someone to apologize if they’re experiencing painful emotions.
You don’t always have to forgive someone who’s wronged you. But studies do show unforgiveness can harm your health (e.g., this and this).
If you choose to forgive someone, this happens by accepting what happened and consciously letting go of the resentment you may be holding toward that person.
There are some benefits to choosing to forgive someone.
Forgiveness isn’t possible in every situation. If you have trouble forgiving someone, you may benefit from practicing self-compassion and not beating yourself up. There are some situations where forgiveness is just flat-out difficult. Forgiveness can be much more challenging when someone doesn’t apologize to you for their behavior.
How to forgive
If you want to continue a relationship with the person who caused you harm, there are some steps you can take in that relationship to help you forgive.
- Apologies: If you and the other person can apologize and accept your responsibility for the role in the transgression, this can lead to an opportunity for relational repair.
- Restorative action: Restorative action behaviors are steps you and the other person take to ensure the same behavior that caused the hurt isn’t repeated, and boundaries are set if necessary.
- Relational caring behaviors: Relational caring (called prosocial) behaviors can help you reconnect with the person who hurt you without focusing directly on the hurtful situation. For example, spending more intentional and uninterrupted time with that person.
- Diverting strategies: Diverting strategies are behaviors that skirt responsibility for the situation by diverting attention away from it. Sometimes, it may help you move on, such as using humor to help reduce conflict.
If forgiveness is not an option for you, or you don’t wish to continue a relationship with someone who has caused you emotional pain, you may consider working on acceptance.
Radical acceptance of the situation doesn’t mean you agree with what happened, but you can fully accept it and cope with your feelings.
- Acceptance of emotions: Your willingness to acknowledge emotions you’re experiencing.
- Mindfulness: A nonjudgmental acceptance of the present moment.
- Cognitive defusion: A process that can shift how you process thoughts and feelings related to your experiences (from personalizing to observing).
- Self as a context: A concept that you exist outside of your current thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and you can be an observer of those concepts in your life.
- Values: The standards you hold as important.
- Commitment to action: A concept of working toward a goal or things you want in a way that aligns with your values.
By using these principles to help you accept a situation, you may be able to release the effects of unforgiveness on your mind and body.
When you don’t get an apology for something that hurt you, this can be painful. There are many reasons someone may not offer an apology. Often, individuals who have caused harm may not be willing to take responsibility for their actions or wish to avoid blame.
You can work toward the four conditions associated with forgiveness to offer forgiveness to others who have hurt you. If you don’t wish to provide forgiveness, working on acceptance may help you deal with the situation in a healthy way.