Before You Forgive
Many times a friend will make a gaffe and apologize. If you say you accept their apology and really don't, this will only cause underlying resentment to build. There are many reasons why you might not feel ready to let go of your anger, including:
- You don't feel that your friend is really sorry.
- You are still shocked that your friend did what they did.
- You are already harboring resentment for some of the other things your friend has done in the past.
If you're struggling with moving on from an argument, you have to discuss your feelings with your pal. Don't use the discussion to berate your friend, but instead use it to come to an understanding. As an example, for the points listed above, you could say:
- "I'd like to forgive and forget but your apology just doesn't seem sincere to me. Are you really sorry for what you did? Or are you just sorry because we're arguing? It's important to me that we resolve this so we can move on."
- "I want to forgive you, but I'm just still so shocked over what happened I need a bit of time. Can we talk again next week so I can process what happened?"
- "I'd like to forgive this instance, but I can't because I have been holding on to anger from the last time you gossiped behind my back. I don't want to keep bringing up the past, so can we talk about this again and finally put it to rest?"
When to Revisit the Past
The only time you can bring up past mistakes is if there is a pattern. If the things your friend is doing wrong seem to escalate, you can then use the past as a point of reference. But be careful with this. Focus on the specific instance and how it makes you feel, and use the past as a supporting point rather than the main one.
Some examples on what to do:
- "Look, I keep forgiving you about this, but you have been an hour late the last three times we met for lunch. I get worried when this happens, and I also feel really stupid sitting here by myself. I don't want this to continue being an issue between us. What can we do so it doesn't happen again?"
- "I forgave you the first two times I caught you flirting with my boyfriend, but now it looks like there is a pattern. I feel like you are disrespecting me when you do this. I want to continue being friends with you, so this behavior has to stop."
An example on what not to do:
- "You're late plus you still haven't paid me back the money you owe me." (This brings up two different issues.)
- "I don't feel you respect me. You never said congratulations on my promotion plus I heard you make fun of my outfit behind my back." (The disrespecting behavior is the gossip behind your back, not the lack of congratulations. These are two different issues that probably make you feel two different ways. Don't lump them together for more impact.)
Accepting an Apology
If there is a "rule" about arguments between friends, it is this: Don't say you accept an apology and then bring up the gaffe somewhere later down the road. As difficult as it may be, when you forgive, you have to give your friend a clean slate. It's never okay to continually bring up their mistakes and link them together as if your friend is just trying to hurt you over and over. Deal with one specific instance at a time in which you forgive your friend and move on from there.
When you are convinced that your friend is sorry, accept their apology and put it out of your mind. Don't continually bring it up or use it as a weapon the next time they do something wrong.
Sometimes people fail to forgive because they think it just makes whatever their friend did okay. That's completely not true! When you forgive, it allows you to lift that anger or hurt from your shoulders so it doesn't continue to interfere with your happiness. It doesn't mean your friend was right in what they did, it simply means their mistake doesn't have the power to hurt you anymore.