Does Forgiveness Require an Apology?

Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

Gary Chapman talked about issues of forgiveness in a radio interview this month.  Many assume that forgiveness has no qualifiers so our analysis of Bible passages about forgiveness may be surprising.  I thought my readers might like to hear what he is saying on this important topic.

CLICK HERE to listen to an in-depth radio chat with Gary Chapman.  Tip: Skip ahead to minute 11 to hear about forgiveness.  Here is a description of the whole interview:

Saying, “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough sometimes when you’ve hurt someone.  Bestselling Author Dr. Gary Chapman will explain the five fundamental aspects or “languages” of an apology and how understanding your own primary apology language can lead to deeper, more powerful healing and enrich all your relationships.

In the interview, Gary Chapman has surprised some by saying this:

“I think we have a lot of fuzzy thinking about forgiveness in the Christian church.  My answer to the question, “Do you forgive someone before they have apologized to you or not?” is… “What does God do?” 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. God asks us to acknowledge/confess/agree about our sin. We call this an apology but the Biblical word is confession…    Ephesians 4 says that we are to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us. God forgives in response to confession and repentance… Forgiveness is the Christian response to an honest apology… In order for us not to be caught in a prison of unforgiveness/bitterness, we should engage in “releasing” those who are unapologetic.”

Your Turn:

What are your thoughts on apologies and forgiveness?

  • akarmin

    Forgiveness is not approval, it is the ability to let go of your feelings so you can move on with your life.

  • timelines

    when someone said they are sorry, asking for forgiveness that dose not mean you should say ok and move on. Moving on many times is not easy even after they say they are sorry

  • Norma

    The Lord’s Prayer asks the Father to “forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US”. Requiring an apology before we deign to forgive is like emotional blackmail. Forgiveness is letting go of our own hate and ego and offering a person love and forgiveness, whether or not it is returned by them, regardless of whether they feel sorry. Reference what Jesus said on the cross: Father forgive them for they know not what they do.