After reading Fractured Into Wholeness, a question I often hear is, “How can I heal from something when the person won’t admit to wrongdoing, when I never hear, ‘I’m sorry’?”
I can help with the process, because that’s my experience—having someone close to me shock, deceive, hurt, and disregard me with no acknowledgement of personal responsibility, no acknowledgement of how it impacted me and others. More of us have been there than I’d like to admit.
As I’ve written about before, not receiving an apology can be hurtful, but our response is not dependent on an apology. When it becomes about what we receive from others, we will be disappointed. We do not have a choice in how another person responds. We have a choice in how we respond. Waiting for something specific from another person positions them to hurt and manipulate us again. That doesn’t always happen. When someone grows into emotional and spiritual maturity, he or she often responds with humility, compassion, and repentance.
I often recommend reflecting on a few questions:
- Is my healing process dependent on someone’s apology? If so, why? What might happen if I never get an apology if I’m not willing to be less dependent on it?
- What do I expect from the apology? Do I expect it to be worded a certain way, be presented in a certain way? Have I unintentionally placed rules around the apology that might affect how I receive an apology if it ever comes?
- Am I healthy enough to receive an apology well?
The first two sets of questions might take a little time to consider, but I find most people have fairly quick access to the answers. They’ve thought them through a bit. That’s not typically the case with the last question. And it can only be answered when we determine we are not dependent on or expectant of an apology. And I don’t mean “I don’t need or want an apology” as a defensive claim. It is more of the reality of our healing process—and who we depend on for it.
At some point in the healing process, an apology becomes more about their process than ours. We can even be glad for the person who is apologizing, because we know it can help their healing process. The apology may or may not affect moving forward or healing a relationship. It depends on a variety of factors, including the damage that’s been done and the clearing process of the damage. Sometimes the healing process puts us on another path, and revisiting the old one is no longer necessary. But many times, the person needs to revisit that old path for themselves, and in the process of dealing with the damage they caused—perhaps honestly facing it for the first time—they might find a new path of their own or a confirmation of the one they’re on.
Apologies are powerful when they are sincere. But they are not medicated bandages that insure healing. They are not required of the offender or the offended—but they can help both when the person giving or receiving is healthy and can give or receive well. Like in so many situations, the best next step you can take, regardless of the situation, is to step toward spiritual healthiness. God heals better than anyone. God knows better than anyone. God provides better than anyone.
And he helps us understand apologies, others’ and our own.