When you ask for forgiveness

A friend of mine who messed up pretty badly in his previous relationship suddenly realized that his ex-girlfriend is ‘the one’. So he went on a mission to win back her heart. He called her but she didn’t pick up.

He sent her a long text asking for forgiveness, asking to be given another chance. She read it but didn’t respond. He feels that he’s done what he can, and the ball is now in her court.

I don’t know what counts as ‘enough’ as far asking for forgiveness is concerned. I guess it depends on what you’ve done wrong and the character of the person from whom you’re asking for forgiveness. It also depends on why you’re hoping to achieve. Do you simply want to stop feeling guilty or do you want to rebuild the relationship?

Whatever the case, one thing remains true; forgiveness is not something that you receive merely by asking. It’s a process.

You have to understand that when you hurt someone, you break their trust. Their minds and hearts recoil. So if you want their forgiveness, you can’t force it. People forgive at their own pace and on their terms. So must be willing to wait. You can’t give timelines and ultimatums. You can’t ask: “Are you still mad?” As if there is a standard amount of time for being angry about what you’ve done.

You must be willing to sacrifice your ego. Often when people get hurt, they put up walls. So when you try to get back in, they will treat you like a questionable character trying to enter Statehouse. They will ask questions, some of them quite humiliating.

They want to know if you’ve changed, or if there is a chance that you will hurt them again. If the relationship matters to you, you must be willing to provide reassurance. You must be willing to speak and listen patiently because then and only then can true healing begin.

You also must be willing to fully own up. You can’t ask for forgiveness while also giving excuses for your behavior and blaming the victim for your error in judgment. “I cheated on you because you were always busy.” “I lied to you because I knew you couldn’t handle the truth.” Own up.

Understand that there is no such thing as a clean slate. People forgive but they don’t forget. And that’s okay because even as a child when you’ve been burnt by a fire, next time you go near it you will be cautious.

So the real work is usually not in getting to hear the words “I forgive you” but in getting the person to trust you again. You tainted the image they had of you so you have to work to show that you are reliable and worthy of their love, friendship and loyalty.

And in the end, asking for forgiveness is not really about the heartfelt words as it is about your behavior. You can’t apologise and then continue to do the same exact thing.



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