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Fatherly Advice: How Can I Forgive Someone Who Won’t Admit They’re Wrong?


A listener named Gordon asks Father Dave for some Fatherly Advice. He explains that he was abused for several years, and his abuser pretends like nothing happened and won’t ask for forgiveness. He asks Father Dave how he can find forgiveness in his heart if this person won’t admit to their wrongdoing. Is forgiveness dependent upon another person being willing to repent?

Father Dave responds: “No, your forgiveness should not be dependent upon whether or not he asks. I realize how difficult this is, but for what you’re asking the answer is yes. We’re called to forgive even if that person doesn’t ask for forgiveness. Now, that’s not to say that we as Catholics must operate in this unhealthy dysfunctional dynamic. There’s nothing preventing us from saying, ‘This really hurt me and it made it even worse when you didn’t even acknowledge that.’ But am I waiting for that conversation to be resolved to my liking? No. What Jesus asks of us is not that it is resolved to our liking, but that we offer mercy and forgiveness the way that God does.”

“You don’t have to call them up and say I forgive you, you don’t have to say here’s my mercy,” Father Dave says, “But it is really just a choice you make. I forgive this person, even though they didn’t ask.”

Brett points out that a big roadblock in these situations is that the person doing the forgiving doesn’t feel that this other person deserves to be forgiven. Father Dave offers a broader explanation of forgiveness saying, “Even to move completely away from Jesus’ command to do this, scientists, doctors, psychologists, people who research this say that the only person it is damaging is the person who is withholding forgiveness … Wouldn’t you want to give yourself relief?”

RELATED: Forgiveness Is Not the Same as Letting Go

“Me being angry and tearing myself apart in no way punishes that person,” Father Dave continues. “If they deserve to be put in jail because it was that much of an offense, then that also needs to happen. So, these are not mutually exclusive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I drop all charges. Even if a crime isn’t committed, it doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t at some point approach that person and explain that it hurt him. That’s a healthy human thing to do. That’s a hard thing to do too, but what we end up doing is none of the above, and we stew and it burns us up.” (Original Air 8-13-18)