When is an Apology Worthy of Forgiveness?

From time to time, we receive letters from our website visitors explaining a particular situation and asking for advice. We are happy to share those that we feel would be of benefit to all our readers, here on the PA blog.

Last year I found out my daughter had been abused 6 yrs previously by a cousin when she was 11 and he was 17. We wrote to him explaining that we did not want to see him again. He must not try to contact our daughter. She had had a breakdown.

From his parents we received a brief typed letter that said they understood her feelings, that their son had received God's forgiveness and he was very upset because allowed to make it up to her. It also requested we meet to reconcile ourselves with them (his parents). We had never shown or felt any animosity towards them. It was then signed "yours sincerely".

Am I wrong to feel this is an inadequate apology considering it is not from the wrong doer, it has no real apology, it shows very little remorse, and is very formal. The family are accusing us of causing a family feud because I refused to accept it as a heartfelt apology.

We at Perfect Apology are silent on questions about when people should "accept" an apology, or why (and how) they should forgive someone who is responsible for hurting them or someone they love. We certainly offer advice on how to craft an apology to increase your chances of being forgiven, but we can't tell anyone when to accept an apology.

These are very personal decisions that are never really open to useful advice or guidance. Often, for very personal reasons, people who receive even perfect apologies are just not ready to forgive. In this particular case, your refusal to forgive is so much more understandable because the apology did not come from the person responsible for your daughter's terrible, life changing experience.

But there may be more than one person in this case with an obligation to apologize for whatever measure of responsibility they feel they deserve for the abuse your daughter suffered. You are right to reject the parents' 'typed' letter (their first mistake) as a genuine apology to your daughter, but only you can decide whether their apology is worthy of some measure of forgiveness. Whatever you decide to do in this case IS the right answer.