I believe that one should be willing to forgive someone who is truly penitent of their actions. Someone who is regretful of past wrongdoings, admitting to fault and wishing to make amends, is casting aside all intents of malice. But while one should be willing to forgive, it is with the understanding that the wrongdoer corrects himself in the future.
I once got into an argument with my older brother over something insignificant, as all brothers do. But unlike most of our squabbles, we allowed this to escalate. Our argument was fueled with our anger, and it came to the point that my brother said that he had no respect for me. Hearing that from him struck a nerve, because to me, he was an authority figure. In my mind and at that time, it seemed that there was some truth to what he said. I stormed away from the conversation and into my room, away from the brother who, in my eyes, had never taken anything that I said seriously. After about 15 minutes of Herb talking with Mom, obviously over the argument that we had, Herb came into my room. He wanted to apologize for saying that he had no respect for me, that it was out of anger, and that although it may seem to be true, it was not. When he said this, I decided not to forgive him, something that I have never done before.
To me, it made sense to reject his apology; it made too much sense, with his constantly annoying me and treating all of my complaints at tantrums. There were even occasions where I had not been forgiven by him, and had to carry on with the emotional baggage. With that kind of treatment, why should I forgive him? That was what my head was saying, and while all of it was true, my conscience still kept telling me to be the bigger man and forgive him.
That was when Herb came into my room. He had been emotionally distraught for the past few days, waiting to be forgiven. What he had done to me had torn him up inside, and he felt that if I couldn’t bring myself to forgive him, it meant the end of our brotherly relationship. We had a long, somber, and emotional talk, and eventually we reached a point where we could put the problem was behind us.
It was odd; Herb usually has to be the bigger man in conversations.
But ever since that day, I have come to realize what refusing to accept an apology can do to someone.