Why do so many parents teach children that they have to hear the words, “I’m sorry” before they can forgive a person? Yet in adulthood they are taught, and you encourage, a more unconditional approach to forgiving, offering it regardless of another’s apology?

I think that parents make a fundamental mistake when they engage in the ritual of: “Say you are sorry.” “Now, you should forgive because your sister apologized.” This ritualization of forgiveness almost trivializes the process and should be avoided.

We, instead, should focus on the heart of the forgiver and ask if he or she is ready to offer forgiveness. Yes, we can point to the one who offended and point out his or her readiness to seek forgiveness, but that is not the main point. The main point, which we teach to children and adults, is this: Forgiveness is a free offering of goodness toward the one who acted unfairly. Forgive when you are ready. If you think that you must wait for the apology, then you are trapped in unforgiveness until the person decides to offer that apology.  That is not being fair to oneself.

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