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Waiting for an Apology

Waiting for an Apology


Dear Rachel,

A few months ago I had a falling-out with someone with whom I have been close friends for many years. Since this incident, we have not spoken even once. I know I am biased, but I really feel that I was not at fault. The whole experience has hurt me very deeply. I had assumed all along that she would call to apologize, and until recently, I wasn’t even sure I was ready to forgive her. Now I am, but she hasn’t contacted me, and I am starting to think that she won’t. I am finally ready to forgive her, and I don’t even have that opportunity. How do I put this behind me and move on?

Hurt, LA

Dear Hurt,

While granting forgiveness to one who has hurt you is an extremely hard thing to do, asking for forgiveness is even harder. For starters, you have taken a very big step in dealing with this situation by putting yourself in a place where you are willing to forgive your friend. But now you actually have an even bigger challenge. If you are willing to forgive her only if she asks for that forgiveness, which in essence means admitting that she has hurt you and was at fault, then your forgiveness is not really completely sincere either. You cannot forgive on a condition. Forgiveness means that you have reached a point where you will forgive her, whether or not she asks, and whether or not she feels she is wrong.

Furthermore, there is another step you can and should take—and this may be the hardest of all: you approaching her. Considering that often, when there is a fight, both people end up feeling hurt, and it is rarely one hundred percent one person’s fault, perhaps you too need to ask for forgiveness. But even if this is a situation where you truly did nothing wrong and therefore have nothing to ask forgiveness for, you can still approach her and open that door. When you make the first move, you show her that you forgive her without needing to directly say it. And more importantly, without making her ask. By approaching her, you show her that you understand and know that asking forgiveness is hard,and save her from that uncomfortableness.

The month where we go to great lengths to make these attempts at asking for and granting forgiveness is the month of Elul. One of the names of Elul is “the month of rachamim.” Rachamim can loosely be translated as “compassion” or “mercy.” The root of rachamim is rechem, which means “womb.” Why is there this connection between a womb and asking for forgiveness?

The concept of a womb is that of being able to make a space inside ourselves for another. Completely removing our ego, our opinion, our thoughts, ourselves—to give room, space and a place for another to enter and feel comfortable and connected. When we do so, the other becomes so much a part of ourselves that we are then truly able to understand the directive to treat another as you yourself want to be treated. If the other person is a part of us, if we can give them that space, then we don’t see them as a separate entity, as someone who can be against us.

While it is certainly hard, try to view the situation from her eyes: not just how she views you, but how she views herself, from within herself. Meaning, if she doesn’t feel that she is wrong, and you believe that she feels she is innocent, then she may also be wondering why you haven’t approached her, or she may be thinking that she has nothing to ask forgiveness for. If she does feel responsible, if she knows she has wronged you, then when you think about how she must be feeling, she must be so embarrassed and she may not even know how to face you.

If your goal is to make her grovel and feel terrible and undergo the difficulty of approaching you, just to teach her a lesson and make her suffer, that would be one thing. But you say you are ready to forgive her. So forgive her. Do so without making her ask. And then approach her. Give her a call. Send her an e-mail. Let her know that you welcome her back into your life—or, if you are not ready for that, just a note to wish her a shanah tovah, a good and sweet new year. That in itself will let her know that you no longer bear that grudge.

Granted, your friend has a responsibility during this time to approach you and ask for forgiveness if she wronged you. But it is not your job to make sure she does what she needs to do. It is, however, your job to make sure you do what you can do to help another and make another feel better. In this case, it seems to be taking that first step for her.

I wish you much luck in this uncomfortable situation, and may your willingness to forgive her be something that you are granted as well from others. Wish wishes and blessings for a healthy, sweet and successful new year! Shanah tovah u’metukah.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Carla Ravenna February 22, 2017

I have a similar situation with a family member I only recently got in contact with. I confronted her for not following through on getting together over the holidays, and I missed out on meeting my neice visiting from Iceland. She knew I had made the niece a gift. She sent me one invitation and no address via FB, and never answered other requesWhen I spoke up about how hurt I was, she attacked me, calling me a bully, abusive, heartless, etc., and even a maniac. I apologized for her feeling upset, but it was her responsibility to borrow someone's phone at the get-togethers if her own was out of service. She seems to think all is well, and 'it's ok' and 'she is only human' so I was wrong to confront her, expecting accountability and an apology. She shows symptoms of being unmanaged Bipolar (I am trained in counseling) and I don't know what to do. Should I FB message her - no other means to converse - and tell her to seek professional help, and call me when she feels better? Block FB? Reply

Kailee May 22, 2017
in response to Carla:

No. Don't tell her to seek professional help. Even if you are trained in counseling, you don't want to make it worse by telling her "hey you have unmanaged Bipolar. I suggest getting professional help". You say you "forgave" her, but this was not sincere. Since you seem to still be locked on the fact that she made a mistake. Sure she didn't contact you much, but you've only been thinking on your point of view. Like you said, she has a niece. Not to mention a job to fulfill other duties, like everyone else. There is a possibility that she may be busy and might not have time to answer calls or texts. And as for her have a "responsibility" to borrow someone's phone if she cannot use hers, I learned the hard way that this is accusation that you don't want to make, even if she should. In fact, you don't want to make any accusations. This just makes it harder to get an apology + understand each other, this results in the reaction you described. Answer above exaplins this better, check it out Reply

Anonymous Hillsdale April 23, 2016

She has hurt me several times...over 30 years...sorry, I'm a good person, she needs to apologize to me, I have suffered enough. Reply

Anonymous Australia March 24, 2015

Thank you so much for this wonderful post, really helping me through a dark time I am having with a friend Reply

Anonymous Dunfermline, Fife September 5, 2012

Friendship I met my friend some 8ish years ago, she is an older lady, very stylish and wonderful - after my mum died she became like a mum to me and has stated in the past that I am like a daughter to her. I have always been a person that keeps things to herself, but have been hurt before, always saying yes to help people -always thinking "I have't heared from so and so in a few days and then phoning. After our kids went to high school I went back to college - long story short my marriage suffered although back on track now, I got depressed crying all time . After having heart to heart with my friend, crying and telling her about my marriage, not going out but my friend and others have not been near, no phone calls, text. this has been going on for 8mths and I really want to talk to her shall I send her a letter and what do I say-I have had to edit this as it wont let me write longer PLEASE HELP Reply

Francine August 27, 2012

Waiting for an apology One day I was with a group of women. This day was to work on forgiveness. One women shared with us her grief. She opened my eyes widely how much forgiveness is important and everything we need to do around this. Then this woman told us her story she kept for herself all her life if I remember right. She said she lived hate in her heart with someone who is in bail who murdered someone in her family. She kept on and on about it and told the group her first time talking about it to want to be releived but did not know how. Then she kept telling us the story of her life. Just like she was telling a little about all of us in our own lives. How she felt and everything she did to this man. She had visited to want something back. She was waiting for an apology which she never got. Then after we all talked about all of our own stories and needs of forgiveness, we all went to a park. We relieved again ourselves that day with big hughes to the trees. I will never forget what I learned that day Reply

Jeff G. Springfield, MO/USA August 22, 2012

Forgivegness Ask yourself simply how would you feel if she (heaven forbid) died in a car accident when you were willing to make amends? Never assume there's time. We function in societies by letting ourselves believe tragedies only happen to 'other people.' Problem is, we're ALL 'other people' to other people. If you're ready to forgive and move foward, be the one to extend the olive branch. Reply

Rishe Deitsch brooklyn, New York March 7, 2012

I enjoy, I benefit, I learn is the greatest

you learn a lot from the articles

and then you get a whole different kind of education from reading the comments


Anonymous USA September 11, 2011

I think there are 2 kinds of forgiveness... the kind you extend to those who apologize (and whether there is a resumption of relationship, outside of marriage, or with parents...but others outside that, seems should be optional). As to those who do not repent, distance is definitely is amazing how the hurts continue, if not with me, with my chiildren, and grandchildren (and I have no control over that). But I would not call the almost nil contact to be a relationship (checkers in the grocery store know me better). But we can forgive in our hearts (and not tell them) and then not carry the burden either. But yea, I reason to go back for more. Someone once wrote that for some parents, the best and only way to honor them is with no contact, but to live our lives in the TORAH way (righteous), being the best person possible. I agree that some parents that is the only way. I found with one of mine, that rare and infrequent phone calls helped. And getting quickly off the phone if they were having a bad day. Reply

Anonymous L.A, CA September 8, 2011

Disagree One of the worst mistakes I have seen people make is forgiving an habitually abusive person and attempting to maintain a relationship with them after the fact. This only guarantees further abuse. I think it wise to avoid abusive people and you ought not feel guilty for doing so in order to protect yourself. "Guilting" someone into forgiveness at the cost of their own sanity and safety is irrational and unwise advice. Reply

Anonymous USA September 7, 2011

I wonder where it is taught that forgiveness means resumption of relationship?? There are some relationships that must be continued, with parents at least, in one way or another...but I do not see that with other kin or friends. Trust is not a gift, it must be earned. Some breaches are so severe, I see no way to have much of any relationship with them following. One can always be polite, kind and generous, without letting down all the walls it seems. In one instance in my life, and I still have no idea why it happened, but after 20 years, the relatives wanted relationship with us. Do I think it will happen again? Maybe...but meanwhile we have contact via skype and email. It will take some time before I feel totally at ease...but the grief and sadness over the distance all these years is gone. Hopefullly not to return. In the case, of another kin whom we have forgiven over and over (without them apologizing or asking) the hurts seem to continue. Perhaps mental illness...sad however with the lasting effects on the rest of us. Reply

Chaya Boston, Ma September 6, 2011

there isn't one pat answer, it depends Most people who go separate ways can reconcile and live happily ever after as amiable acquaintances, if not deep friends, and this has happened to me, with friends, family and acquaintences. Without taking stock of blame, I have resumed relationships, wiser and aware of the limitations, careful not to push it. But not all disrupted friendships are this way. There are very negative people who are truly mean and a little crazy. They know they are supposed to make amends in Elul, all the while making 14 insults in the email asking for amends. For the past 3 Eluls, I have overlooked this and thought I'm the one with the broad shoulders and will try to respond kindlly. After opening communication, the same things happen and he quickly becomes immensely insulting, declares he does not want to be my friend anymore when I don't go along with his craziness. Then, no communication until the next Elul! It's not sincere. At this point, I'm not going to respond to insults. Response: Try Again Reply

marianne apex, nc September 6, 2011

forgiveness is conditional Since Gd never forgave anyone unless they were sorry, I do not see why we are required to. Where is that in the Torah? Reply

Anonymous Cleveland September 5, 2011

waiting for an apology (con't) ...While we are waiting for the other to "understand their part" (there is never only one party - even if the only reason for the one is that they let a root of bitterness take hold). Sometimes, we just have to let go (just like many of the other responses wrote) because the relationship is toxic the way it is. After we contact the other person, if they do not respond, then it is probably a good thing for us, because they have not come to teshuvah. It does hurt, I have people that I was friends with for a long time, but when I discovered Sabbath, and Torah and Feasts and how I should live my life accordingly, there are still some who distance themselves from me saying I am a herectic. I really miss them, but I know there is nothing I can do - their friendship was conditional on my being who and what they think I should be. That is sad. But, maybe one day, they will understand. Reply

Anonymous Cleveland September 5, 2011

waiting for an apology I have a friend who, many times, I have had to "shelve" our relationship. But, it wasn't because of being mad (all of the time). I've been working on my own issues, and her issues "antagonized" me. And in return, I antagonized her. She was queen at "throwing guilt trips" at people (not just me).I found out that the reason why it so affected me, is that I had a root of guilt, that is why I would react so much to it. I distanced myself for protection, for BOTH of us, because I would retaliate and I knew that that would hinder her progress, as well as her part would hinder mine. We have been through some rough waters, but one thing we have done, is maintain our "spiritual" relationship, while the garbage is being rooted out. She finally understood why I had to distance myself when I did, as she is digging up generational stuff (as well as myself). What I am saying is that BOTH parties have to seek the real root of the situation. If only one does, then we just have to wait for the other... Reply

Gitty W. Brooklyn , ny September 5, 2011

I"m not sure I agree with this advice. Firstly, I"m not sure that it is harder to ask for forgiveness then to forgive, especially if you are asked to forgive when the other person doesn't acknowledge they have done something wrong.
Secondly, what disturbs me about this advice is that I fear that even if the questioner follows through, while she may then be able to resume a relationship with this individual, I don't think it will be a relationship that can go deep, and one she really can respect, and cherish.
I do think if she wants a healthy relationship she must find a way to communicate with her friend in a non-threatening, non-judgemental way about how she feels, and thus find some way to honestly make up. Reply

Anonymous Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel September 5, 2011

friendship Some time nearly 20 yrs. ago I got a msg. from a friend's husband that I had hurt her. I sent her an apology note. No response. I called and asked what I had done, and how could I make things right. She sd. "It's okay." I tried to find out what I had done, and told her I wanted to patch things up. She just kept saying, "It's okay." I could do no more.
I moved 4 yrs. ago, and found that she is in my community. She ignores me when she sees me.
Reading this article and the responses makes me finally realize that I am really so much better off without her in my life! I wouldn't want to be friends with her, even if she recanted. She always was a gossip and small minded.

I realize that, in a way, she did me a favor! Now I just have to learn to be tougher and not let it bother me when I occasionally bump into her and she looks through me.

Thank you!

And by the way, I happen to have many close friends, and know that I am a great friend to have. Her loss! Reply

Anonymous shamir, israel September 4, 2011

waiting for an apology a wise and kind advice!! Reply

Mimi Mountain View, CA September 4, 2011

forgiveness Hi, one of my best friends did not answer my weekly phone calls, then she said "you said something to hurt my feelings, so I did not want to talk to you for a while." However, she will not tell me what it was that said. I do not know what to do. I think that it's not fair to withhold that info. Should I call her again anyway?? Mimi Reply

Anonymous Yorktown Heights, NY September 4, 2011

Perfect Timing This article came at the most perfect time. I, too, was angry at a friend who I felt should have been more of a friend to me during a very stressful time. It made me question our relationship and the more I thought about it, the angrier and more hurt I became. Then I came to the realization that my idea of friendship may be very different than hers. It helped me to accept what happened. I don't even think she realized how hurt I was. I needed a place to "shelve" my anger and not let it ruin me. In my heart, I have forgiven her which has made me feel so much better. This was a good lesson for me to learn and just at the right time. The article has made me feel good about my decision and I will still be the type of friend I've always been. I have learned that not everyone is like me and am able to accept this. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 22, 2011

Waiting for an Apology Not everyone is apologetic and forgiving. That's one of the hardest lessons to learn. Since your friend is no longer speaking to you, you should move forward. Reply

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