Forgiveness From Others: The Importance Of Apologies & 6 Tips To Overcome Guilt

By Stephanie Kirby|Updated July 25, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dawn Brown, LPC

We have all been there before. That place of knowing that you have done someone wrong and need to apologize. Knowing how to apologize to your boyfriend or girlfriend is an important skill to have for a healthy relationship. It's a difficult place to be in, and it can bring many emotions with it. You may be embarrassed, confused, angry, sad, or any other number of emotions. And, it may leave you wondering how to get someone to forgive you.

It Can Be Difficult To Know Where To Start With An Apology
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.

And that's one of the hardest parts. You have no control over if someone decides to forgive you or not. What you do have control over is your ability to apologize and the behavior that you show going forward.

Why It's Important To Apologize

Apologizing has many benefits for both the person who is apologizing and the one that's receiving the apology. A heartfelt apology can bring down a situation.

When two people are in an argument, it's easy for things to get heated—Tempers flare, and blood pressure rises. But, when one person apologizes, it instantly starts to deescalate the situation.

If you have hurt another person, apologizing can have the following benefits:

  • Show them that you aren't trying to act against them. If you hurt someone, they likely took it as a personal act against them. They may have been offended or hurt or both. When this happens, many times, people become instantly defensive. They think that you were purposely coming against them. Even if that's not what you were doing, that's often how it's perceived. So, when you apologize, you begin to remove this feeling.
  • Let them know that you are acknowledging what you've done. Sometimes, the first step to getting someone to forgive you is to let them know that you acknowledge the thing you did wrong. If the other person thinks that you're trying to get away with not having to take responsibility for what you've done, they're not likely to forgive you. This is why it's important when you apologize to say what you're apologizing for.
  • Open the door for discussion and moving forward. When you apologize, you may not receive instant forgiveness. By acknowledging the wrong you have done and letting the person know that you feel bad about it and want to make things right, you can open the door for a new discussion. This can be the first step and moving forward.

How To Get Someone To Forgive You And Overcome Guilt

While you can't control if someone's going to forgive you or not, there are some things that you can do to make it easier for them to forgive you. These things can also make it easier for you to overcome any guilt you're feeling to move forward healthily.

  1. You Need To Show That You Are Remorseful

We can see this situation played out in children interacting together, especially siblings, regularly. One child will do something that hurts the other and is then told to apologize. However, when they apologize, they say "I'm sorry" in a mean way and are then told by a parent to "say it as you mean it."

This advice is important as an adult as well. People will not forgive you if you do not show them that you are remorseful for what you have done. If you are saying the words "I'm sorry" to get them to forgive you and not because you mean it, they are going to see right through it. If you aren't sorry, then don't apologize. If you are sorry, then make sure you communicate to the other person that you are deeply remorseful and that your apology is sincere.

  1. Explain The Situation If That's What The Other Person Wants

This is going to vary case-by-case. Some people will want an explanation of what your thought process was in the action or behavior you had. This information is what they feel like they need to be able to move towards forgiving you. However, some people will take your explanation of the situation as you are trying to excuse your behavior.

You must understand the person that you are asking for forgiveness from. If part of the reason they are hurt is that they see something different in the situation than how it was, it is important to explain this. They need to understand the situation. But, some people aren't going to want to hear it, and you can't force them to.

  1. Take Responsibility

It's important that you own the situation and what you did wrong. Don't try to sugarcoat your behavior or the situation. This makes it difficult for someone to forgive you because they don't feel like you're sincere.

  1. Do What You Can To Make It Right

Sometimes when you have wronged someone, there are actions that you can take to improve the situation. Take some time to think through the situation and what you did wrong and think about anything you can do to change it. If you're trying to apologize but not doing things that can make the situation better, your apology will not look sincere.

Being sorry and remorseful is something that you can show with your actions and not just your words.

  1. Let Them Know What You're Going To Do Differently In The Future

Sometimes it can make it easier for someone to forgive you if they know that you're proactive in the situation. When you let someone know what your plans are, not to repeat the wrong thing you did, it can go a long way in showing the person you are sincere. It lets them know that you have thought through the situation and what you need to improve.

This can help someone to work towards accepting your apology and forgiving you faster. However, if you take this route and you let them know what you're going to do differently in the future, you need to make sure that you do it. Because if you don't, that person is going to lose all trust in you, and it's not going to be as easy to apologize for you the next time around.

  1. Forgive Yourself

Forgiving yourself is important for both you and the other person if you're still in a relationship with them. If they forgive you and you don't forgive yourself, you will continue to force both of you to live in that situation. Even if the other person has not forgiven you, choosing to forgive yourself is important for your future. It allows you to overcome the guilt you're feeling, which is important for living a healthy life.

You need to acknowledge that you're not perfect and you're not going to do everything right. But, you need to love yourself, and you'd be able to accept yourself even with your imperfections. If you have done everything you can to make the situation better, it's time to forgive yourself and move forward. This is an important decision for you to make regardless of what the other person or people that you have hurt have decided. You don't need to wait for their forgiveness to forgive yourself.

Remember That Forgiveness And Restoration Are Two Different Things

It's important to remember that just because someone forgives you does not mean that they will want to maintain a relationship with you. This could not be easy to understand. If you did something wrong to hurt someone or break their trust and have apologized, you most likely think that things should be able to go back to the way they were before. But that's not always the case.

It Can Be Difficult To Know Where To Start With An Apology

For example, in the case of infidelity in a marriage, it may be possible for one spouse to forgive the other person for cheating, but it doesn't mean that they trust that person. You can't have a healthy relationship without trust. So, they may decide, even though they have forgiven, not to restore the relationship to what it once was.

This decision is not within your control. If a relationship is lost because of something you have done, it is a natural consequence of your behavior. There is nothing that you can do to force the other person to maintain a relationship with you. You can work to show them that you are remorseful, that you have changed, and work on rebuilding trust with them. In time, this can help to restore the relationship. But, it's not something that you can automatically expect or demand.

When Therapy Is Right

Many ways are talking to a therapist can be beneficial if you're in a place, you need to apologize for something you've done wrong. A therapist can help you learn how to overcome the guilt you are feeling due to the situation. They can help you learn how to apologize and try to reconcile any relationships. And they can help you learn what changes you need to make, so you don't repeat the behavior.

If you are looking for someone to talk to, contact a therapist from ReGain to get started on your healing process today.

“Lakesha was absolutely amazing! She helped me find myself and realize my self worth in such a short period! I highly recommend her services she is FRESH and has amazing insight!”

"My experience with Priscilla has been immensely helpful in better understanding myself and providing me with the tools to see my life and relationships with more clarity and compassion."


Helpful resources for relationships & more in your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak With A Licensed Therapist
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.