As children we are constantly told to apologize when we misbehave or if we hurt someone, either emotionally or physically. In fact not saying sorry was not an option in our home when I was growing up, and along with the apology was the expectation that you changed the behavior involved that required an apology. Doing something bad or hurtful, saying sorry, and then going back to the same bad behavior was not acceptable.
Think about the last time someone hurt or offended you. When they said sorry did you forgive them because the apology was sincere, or did your forgiveness come from frustration and exasperation because the apologies that this person gives are frequent and mean nothing?
Too often the phrase “I'm sorry” is empty and means nothing. The sad fact is that even when we are offered insincere apologies we are expected to forgive and forget. What makes this cycle worse is that often the people who we love the most, and with unconditional love, are the ones whose apology is meaningless because it does not lead to a change in their hurtful behavior. Parents, partners, siblings, and other close family members may offer empty apologies and expect instant forgiveness as though these two words erase any pain that you may feel over their behavior.
If someone tells you they are sorry yet they continue with the same actions and behaviors then they are not really sorry. Words speak loud but actions speak louder, and if they were truly sorry they would regret causing you pain and change their ways. Forgiveness is not owed, either to you or from you, just because an apology is given.
The person who has been hurt is the only one who can determine whether to forgive. If someone hurts me and they are truly sorry then I expect them to change the hurtful behavior. By forgiving them even though they don't change I am being unfair to myself, and I expect more if they are really sorry.
If you want to be a better person there are two important steps that you need to do:
Don't expect forgiveness if you haven't worked for it and are not sincere in your apology.
Don't accept any apology if these words are not paired with a change in the hurtful behavior.
If you are truly sorry then you should be willing to change the behavior, and you should expect the same from others.
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