The next step when someone won't accept an apology
Our Lord highlights our need to extend forgiveness and to forgive in the Gospel of St. Matthew. St. Peter asks Our Lord how often one must forgive, with Jesus responding 77 times, meaning that there is no reasonable limit to forgiveness. He also warns against the temptation not to forgive, stating that our Heavenly Father will not forgive unless we forgive our brothers and sisters (Matthew 18:21-35).
We could be tempted to walk away from a situation like this, convinced that God will handle it. Even before this poor judgement crosses our mind, however, we should first examine our own actions.
Any apology we give must first be genuine. This means that it comes from the heart, after reflecting on the injury you have caused. Fake or forced apologies do not sound genuine and may only further the injury caused.
An apology also must recognize the full extent of the injury. Without prejudice, we must examine the incident and discern the whole action we performed that caused the injury.
Finally, an apology must be unconditional. Even if we think we are apologizing unconditionally, we may unconsciously be putting conditions on our apology, perhaps by putting an excuse or "but" in our apology to justify ourselves or by trying to some blame to the person injured.
If after a genuine, unconditional and full apology the person does not forgive, take time to reflect on the pain you may have caused him. It may take time for him to forgive you.
If, after some time, the person still has not extended you forgiveness, he may have made you an enemy and is refusing to be reconciled with you. Jesus counsels us to pray for such individuals (Matthew 5:44), genuinely and unselfishly that the person is blessed by God, most of all by finding Him and accepting His forgiveness. By God forgiving that person, he will more easily be able to forgive you.
In addition to praying, continue to hold out hope that he will one day accept your apology and extend you forgiveness. Do not grow bitter and begin to duplicate the same lack of forgiveness in your life. Also, you can attempt to show love in any way you can to indicate your desire to improve your relationship with him.
Always, when forgiving or asking to forgive, remember the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians, "(And) be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ" (Ephesians 4:32).
Father Mayo is associate pastor of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington. Send questions for a priest to: St. Louis Review, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis MO 63119, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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