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.