Three simple words , without knowing the context, have endless implications/applications. A simple accidental bump into someone, if you interrupt someone, a common courtesy, These type of apologies are typically immediate. The phrase is a polite gesture allowing us to coexist in a somewhat civil society. Making amends can also vary culturally. For example, in Japan the word for sorry is “gomen”. If you are at fault in a car accident, even before judgement and damages are awarded, you are culturally expected to offer what is referred to as “gomen money”. Those familiar with the Far East understand that “saving face”, a karma centered ideology, yields a population of humility and tolerance. I admire the Japanese tact that it in a sense, requires a time of reflection as well as setting the stage for the more western ideology of forgiveness.
I have often wondered if it is possible to forgive without an apology. Additionally, must you forgive when an apology is given. For me I believe the answer is simple. If the apology is sincere, it makes it easy to forgive.
However, If insincerity is present does the apology mean anything? I remember when I was around 10, being full of myself, sharing with my Dad Tony, how someone had wronged me and the next day she had apologized to me. I smugly shared, “I told her I didn’t accept her apology”. He immediately scolded me and made it clear that if someone makes the effort to apologize, you damn well better accept it. Looking back, my not wanting to accept the apology was a lapse in judgment in the form of wanting to hurt, those that hurt me. The apology and her taking ownership was the key to breaking the cycle of vengeance and arrogance. We are human, as the Bible says in Matthew 5 23:25, if you come to the altar with a gift but have conflict in your heart with your brother, leave immediately and go to your accuser so that you may resolve the conflict, and then once again return to the altar with a clear heart.
If an apology never comes? That’s where forgiveness in order for you to move forward is so crucial.