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Sometimes People Don’t Say Sorry—Why It Pays to Forgive Nonetheless

“Without forgiveness life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” ~Roberto Assagioli

When I was a little girl, I used to wonder what my father was like. Was he a nice man? What did he look like? Did he think about me? Did he love me?

But, above all I wondered why he left.

I used to make up stories about him—one time I imagined him as a voyager traveling to foreign lands and picking up small gifts for me in every new place he visited. He met with the locals, and would learn new trades and languages. He’d tell them stories about how much he loved and missed me, and how he couldn’t wait to come home.

Another time he was a doctor stationed abroad helping to heal sick and impoverished children. He couldn’t come home because without him, those children would die, and when I was big enough, I’d travel to be with him.

I liked envisioning him as someone far away and out of reach, doing important work. In this way his absence made sense to me. But, the reality was not quite as heroic as I imagined it to be.

I first spoke to my father when I was a teenager and learned he was living in a different state and running his own business.

He’d remarried since my mother, and divorced, but had no more children. When I asked him why he left his answer was simple: “When your mom and I split up, I gave her a choice. Either she raise you without my help, or I raise you without her help. Emotionally. Financially. Everything. I needed a clean break.”

My heart dropped.

He wasn’t a doctor saving sick children.

He wasn’t a voyager exploring new lands and thinking of me.

Instead, he was just a man. A man who decided his divorce applied to both his wife and his daughter.

An overwhelming sadness filled the air around me, and disappointment set in. I wasn’t expecting or prepared for his nonchalant answer. The longing I’d felt to know him, the paternal love I wished to experience, the warmth, the guidance, the protection, the encouragement—all of it dissipated in an instant.

And in its place was emptiness.

But still, I longed for a connection with him. Growing up without a father made me feel somehow incomplete, like I was missing out on something everyone around me had access to.

I thought if I could prove I was worthy and deserving of his love and affection my father would never leave me again. I thought he’d realize he made a mistake and apologize for his absence, and work hard to make up for all of the years of fatherhood he missed out on. So I asked him if I could visit, and he agreed.

He booked me a ticket, and a few months later I was flying solo to see him. I was nervous and anxious. My palms were sweating and my hands were shaking. Would he like me? Would we get along? Would I finally have a father?

When he picked me up from the airport I could barely mutter out a hello.

“H-h-h-iii,” I stammered.

“Hey. Come on in, the traffic is really bad right now,” he said while opening the passenger side door of his truck.

Everything about him was different than I’d imagined. He wasn’t as talkative or full of stories as I thought he’d be. Instead he was quiet and observant, and somewhat withdrawn. But, he was welcoming and gracious during my stay—his girlfriend, however, not so much.

As my father and I got to know each other, his girlfriend distanced herself from our conversations and company. Initially, I figured she was shy or wanted to give us time alone. But, when I arrived home after my trip I learned she had given my father an ultimatum: choose her or me. He said he was furious with her, and he’d never choose a relationship over his daughter.

In an instant I felt validated. I felt important. And for the first time in my life, I felt paternal love and protection.

But, those feelings were short lived. When I tried to contact my father again I couldn’t get through. He changed his number. He stopped responding to my emails. He went completely off the grid, again.

I felt crushed, confused, and distraught. The man that I glorified for so long, and thought would love and care for me instead turned his back and walked away without so much as a goodbye.

And for a while I was shattered. I was angry. I was full of resentment. I was full of hatred. And I was sad because I didn’t understand what I had done and why he didn’t want me in his life.

And those negative feelings I held inside regarding my father were then projected into my relationships with men.

I found myself involved with emotionally unstable, unavailable men who were usually much older than me. The relationships were toxic—full of trust issues, fights and lack of appreciation. And each breakup left me feeling more broken and more unworthy, as if I was experiencing my father’s rejection over and over again.

After one particularly vulgar relationship characterized by emotional abuse and episodes of physical violence, I knew I had to get out. I knew I had to change my ways. I knew I had to learn to let go of the past and forgive my father for leaving because it was haunting my present.

All of those repressed emotions I felt toward my father were replaying over and over in my daily life like a lesson waiting to be learned—only I wasn’t learning. And I couldn’t move forward with my life because I hadn’t forgiven my father, and in the process I imprisoned myself.

And so I sat down and I prayed for guidance. I asked for help. For redirection. And, a voice in my head said, “We don’t forgive others for their salvation. We forgive others for our own.”

And in that instant, I knew what I had to do. I had to release the anger. I had to release the frustration. I had to release the sadness. I had to unlock the doors keeping me imprisoned.

Symphonically, my lips opened and these words poured out: “I forgive you for abandoning me. I forgive you for rejecting me. I forgive you for choosing her over me. I’m sorry for holding onto these negative feelings for so long. I wish you the best in your life. I wish you happiness. I wish you love. I wish you abundance. I am freeing you from my anger, and I am freeing myself.”

After that my entire life changed. A weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I felt at peace. I felt happy. I felt free.

When it comes to forgiveness, we are each responsible for freeing ourselves because no one else can do it. Forgiveness is the key to self-salvation, and you can unlock your personal prison today and set yourself free now. Are you ready?

Here’s how:

Let Go of ‘Entitled’ Apologies

When I first met my father, I was certain he was going to adorn me with grand apologies, cry, and beg for my forgiveness. But, reality didn’t match my expectation. Not only did he not apologize, he also didn’t seek my forgiveness. In his mind, what he did made sense at the time and there as no reason to say sorry for it.

As I got older I began to understand the phrase “life happens, we all make mistakes.” And it’s true. None of us are perfect in our decision making, and it’s often through our mistakes we learn the quickest.

I can’t tell you what motivated my father to leave, but I can tell you I understand how overwhelming parenthood can be, especially when you’re a young twenty-something. I understand how when we have tough upbringing (as my father did) and we don’t let go of our past, it can negatively impact our lives and decisions in the present and future.

Sometimes people don’t say sorry. Sometimes people don’t believe they were wrong. But that doesn’t matter. Apologies aren’t what vindicate you—you vindicate yourself. Don’t wait for someone to apologize and behold a grudge against them until they do.

You know why?

Because the person that feels the wrath of your anger, frustration, and hatred is you. Those hostile feelings, emotions, and thoughts pulsate through your bloodstream like venomous poison, and you become the host keeping that poison alive.

Rather than waiting for an apology, or expecting one to come, realize it may never happen and that’s okay. Because your life and your happiness don’t depend on someone else saying sorry. Your life and your happiness depend on you and no one else.

Find The Lesson

Thrive on tough times! Because these tough times are simply life events that allow you to exercise your internal muscles. The more life throws at you, the stronger you’ll become.

If my father hadn’t left, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. If he hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have the same perspective and appreciation for life, love, and relationships. I am grateful for my father leaving because he taught me why forgiveness matters, which has enabled me to appreciate life more, be empathetic to others and love more, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Sometimes things happen, and we don’t understand why. Sometimes people hurt us. Sometimes life and its circumstances seem unfair. But, the truth is, every experience we have in life is meant to guide us, to teach us and to re-direct us.

So when you’re in a place where you’re feeling angry, resentful, and enraged step back and ask yourself what the universe might be trying to teach you through this experience. Even if this answer isn’t immediately clear, you will find it eventually and understand.

Reclaim Your Power

The misery I felt after my father cut me off was heartbreaking. My soul hurt. My body was tormented. My mind shattered. I lost my power when I lost my father because I associated his actions with my value, happiness and purpose.

But, we can’t control what other people do. They’re living their lives the best way they know how. We can only control how we react to them. And we either choose to empower or disempower ourselves with our reactions.

Grief, sadness, and anger are all normal emotions. They help us understand the world around us and build our emotional intelligence. And at certain points in our lives, we will express these feelings, and doing so is healthy. So, I’m not suggesting you repress your feeling, but I am suggesting you evaluate them.

Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” And if your answer is “because __________ did __________,” then ask yourself, “What can I do to move forward with my life?“

Create a strategy and timeline for how you can empower yourself to move forward and begin acting on it immediately.

Forgive

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past.” ~Anne Lamott

After I forgave my father I was able to move forward with my life, and my relationships with men, in a positive and loving way. No longer did I sulk in disappointment, depression, self-hatred, or stress. Nor did I seek validation from outside sources. Instead, I found internal peace, happiness, and love.

Forgiveness is the final step in this healing process. When we let go of our painful past, we make way for a bright and hopeful present and future. Our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions align with our newly freed state of being, and we become happier, healthier, and more positive.

Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love, and one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and others.

By practicing these methodologies, I was able to climb the ladder to forgiveness. Each one was a critical rung I had to experience and consciously step up to. Only then did I regain my power. The most important part is that he didn’t change, apologize, or live up to my glorification. Instead, I simply made it to the final step, at the top of the forgiveness ladder.

About Antasha Durbin

Antasha Durbin is a spiritual writer, life-long student of the universe, and psychic tarot card reader. Her website, cajspirituality.com, is dedicated to casualizing the spiritual experience and making it attainable for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Follow her for free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living.

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  • BellaTerra66

    We never ever fully recover from deep hurts, like yours and other hurts. (I am 69 years old and still trying to forgive my dead mother and father for a really bad childhood.) However, these hurts can make us more loving, more compassionate, more generous. In other words, altho’ we are very wounded human beings, these hurts can make us into better people — if we let them. I finally figured out, at age 50 and after two divorces (I left both husbands) that I was too wounded to ever have a good marriage. While that may sound really bad — you know, for some of us, it’s just a fact. And once I accepted that, my life became even better. Being contentedly single opened my life up to some good friendships and to just being there (like just listening — not telling them how to change their lives) for other wounded people when our paths have crossed. I’ve had a good life — all along, actually, since I left home at 18 — another story for another time. 🙂 I really wouldn’t change anything (except I wish I had gotten a Ph.D. from Harvard LOL). And every day — even on ‘bad’ days — I am deeply, deeply grateful for the life I’ve had and for the person I’ve become over the decades. Henri Nouwen wrote “The Wounded Healer” long ago (he’s now dead), and it’s become a spiritual classic. While I don’t think it’s a great book, it’s certainly a VERY good book and worth reading at least once.

  • Karla Jenkins

    Having ended a relationship with my husband, I interpret your father’s ultimatum to your mom differently. He was willing to be your father and would have taken you but wanted a complete break with your mom. Having visitation rights or joint custody would have kept a link between him and your mother. Personally, I was so hurt by the end of our relationship that I couldn’t even stay in the town we’d lived in for 40 years. I lost not only him but all the friends I’d had….and I was the one who had filed for divorce. I wasn’t rejecting my friends, but they were not enough to fill my life. I’ve no idea what ended your parents’ relationship….but the fact he would have raised you alone must have meant it was not you that he rejected. And now, he has someone in his life daily, someone to be a full time companion to him. An adult child can’t fill that role. It is sad he can’t have both and that his girlfriend finds you a threat….but it’s not your fault. I’m glad you’ve moved on and are whole and happy.

  • Adurbin

    Hi Bella! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. You’re absolutely right, these hurts can make us more loving, compassionate and kind. I too and grateful for my experience and childhood because it has been one of my greatest teachers. Big love to you! Xx, Antasha

  • Adurbin

    Hi Karla, thank you so much for taking the time to read my piece and share your experience. I think you’re a very brave woman for sharing your story on this forum. With my parents, my father wasn’t willing to share custody — it was either all or nothing, and now as an adult its much easier to understand everyone has limitations, faults and copes in their own way. I’m very grateful for my experience as I know it catapulted me into the life that I have now. Big love to you and thank you again for reading. Xx, Antasha

  • Steve Groff

    Thank you! I have a niece that will one day need these words. And while she might not understand them initially, hopefully she will refer back to these words time and time again for guidance in her own life. Thank you for that, and for me… thank you for helping me once again realize what I continually forget… I’m old enough now where words like yours should hold true everyday, but it’s nice to be reminded of the life I own myself.

  • Adurbin

    Hi Steve! I have an uncle named Steve as well, and he was absolutely instrumental in encouraging and uplifting me when I was going through this. It seems like you’re doing that for your niece as well, and I’m certain she’s so grateful for your love and support. Big love to you, xx Antasha

  • ShaunTheCHB

    I admire people who have the courage to forgive the monsters that do them wrong, You are very courageous Antasha. Unfortunately, I don’t have that courage. To me, forgiving is like letting them off and letting them walk. I can’t let them get away with it. I want my justice. It’s all I really have left. If I let them go, I have nothing left to keep me going, to keep fighting for.

  • can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today. I had a similar experience – except that it wasn’t my father but a friend who made the same kind of choice. I am stuck with the same feelings of resentment you described. I am not at the stage yet where I am able to wish that person well. And that saddens me. These feelings of anger simmer a thousand deaths of preciousness in my life. I hope I will be able reach the stage you are in soon.

  • Kathy

    Thank you! This is a deeply powerful post that resonates with me. I have forgiven a deep hurt many times, but the anger and grief keep coming back. I know I need to work on mindfulness and controlling my thoughts so I may be free. This is a reminder that the unforgiveness is holding me back and disempowering me.

  • Adurbin

    Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the piece and share a bit of your story. I know it isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely possible and you can do it, I believe in you! Wishing you all of the best, and sending love your way. Xx, Antasha

  • dyslexictrio

    22 years after losing my cherished daughter, I read your story and I am surprised to find no tears come up, anymore. The well is finally tapped dry. When I see a story from your perspective, I find myself usually wanting to speak up for the father. The reason: my daughter clearly has no idea of what truly happened; she only has the influence of her mother to formulate her opinion as she relays that she does not want to speak to me, nor offer a reason. It has been years since I had any contact with her; even more since I last saw her.
    My ex-wife cheated on me, left, then kidnapped my daughter and used a corrupt legal system to permanently remove me from her life. The day I was served with the papers, I fell into a crumpled heap of tears and anguish. My daughter was my life, and now she is gone at the age of 2 1/2.
    Now, for all I know, I am a grandfather, but it seems I will never know. So, while I appreciate your sharing and accept=and know-the principle of forgiveness, I continue to feel compelled to yell out to all the ‘abandoned’ daughters (and sons) out there: “Make no assumptions about your father. For some of you, your father is a man who wished to be a vital, loving part of your whole life but, with your mother, it was not going to be possible.”
    My ex holds no regrets and loves that she was able to do what she did. Now, there is a 22-year hole in my spirit that can never be filled and it grows with every passing day that I breathe without contact with little girl. As I finish here, the tears show up, after all…

  • Adurbin

    Hi SoulMuser! Thank you for taking the time to read this piece and comment. There is this great quote I love (although I don’t know the author) and I’d like to share it with you — “there is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.” I know sometimes when people wrong us, it can feel like an overwhelming doom of emotion where we find ourselves trapped by negative thoughts, feelings & emotions, and the first step to freeing yourself is to realize you hold the key to your own freedom. Once this realization takes place (and the belief is soaked in) you will be well on your way to forgiving and letting go. Remember you are precious, and you are worthy. Big love to you! Xx, Antasha

  • Adurbin

    Hi Shaun, thank you so much for reading this piece & for your kind words. I think oftentimes we don’t think enough of ourselves, and don’t realize how powerful and courageous we really are. I completely understand where you’re coming from, and for a long time I felt the same way you do now. It’s these times we must remind ourselves that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not human beings having a spiritual experience and this means our power isn’t limited, nor is our ability to overcome life circumstances. I believe in you. You are powerful. You hold all of the answers and power within you to heal yourself, and the hurt of your past experiences. Big love to you. Xx, Antasha

  • Ann

    “Sometimes people don’t say sorry. Sometimes people don’t believe they were wrong.”

    So related to this. I waited over a year for an apology that never came… the same way, i guess, Hitler never apologised. The validation when someone admits they were wrong – or when the world condemns them for what they did – it’s so helpful!! To make you feel better/bigger.

    I really struggled without it.

    You’re right – you validate yourself.

  • Mohit Gupta

    Great read Antasha!! Good to hear your story. Forgiveness is definitely not easy especially for deep hurts. What is important though is an understanding of why people do what they do. Every human for that matter is conditioned in their mindset, beliefs, perceptions etc. So in a way, the reactions and actions are preconditioned and right for them at that point of time. What we are finding hurting is actually justified for the other. This is the case for everyone, for us also it applies. We also might have done things which could have hurt others without us knowing. Waiting for apologies is just a justification on the part of ego. The key is in realizing we are not our minds, understanding the mind patterns, our trigger points and eventually becoming stronger.
    Again thanks for sharing!

  • Max

    I love the artwork with this article(watercolor?) but I have to say it looks like she has a coffee filter for a hat, lol!

  • Adurbin

    Dear Dyslexictrio,

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I am so sorry to hear about your experience, and wish you further healing, love and happiness moving forward. You’ve had a lot of pain in your life, and you’re very brave for sharing your story.

    My experience was different in that it was very much my father’s choice to not partake in my life. He told my mom he’d either take me and raise me solo, or not be involved at all. As a teenager when I first met him, he confirmed that (my mom was never a “dad basher,” in fact she never talked about him at all) but none of that mattered – I was just excited to have a relationship with him. So when things didn’t turn out how I anticipated they would after meeting him, I was heartbroken. But still, as the years went by I understood more and more that he’s just a human being like everyone else, and he makes mistakes too. And that’s okay. There’s no anger anymore. No resentment. Just love and learnings.

    Big love to you, and thank you again for sharing your story.

    Xx,
    Antasha

  • Kim

    Thank you so much for not only bravely sharing your story but also giving words of wisdom. Six years ago, my father and I suffered an awful fight that led to the complete dissolution of our relationship. Time has proven it to be a tough loss to get over. But in order for me to move forward, I know I have to forgive him for what he’s put me through. That’s a tough thing to do. How do you forgive the one person on the planet who was supposed to love you and be there for you no matter what? But to forgive is to move forward, and move forward we must!