When They Won’t Forgive You

There is someone in my life who won’t forgive me.
“Forgive you for what,” you ask. I wish I knew.
I’m referring to my oldest friend. We met in elementary school, and we’ve been together through thick and thin. There were times I felt closer to her than I felt to my own sister.
But a few years ago there was a shift in our relationship. I don’t know what happened. We didn’t have a falling out, at least not that I’m aware of, and there were no bitter words that can’t be taken back.
All I know is that we fell out of touch {we live in different areas of the country}, which wasn’t all that unusual because we always had the kind of relationship where we could go months – sometimes even a year – without contact, but then we’d get together and pick up right where we’d left off.
Not this time. She stopped contacting me. She didn’t reply to my emails and texts, and she didn’t answer when I called. Before I realized it, it had literally been years since our last conversation.
On Facebook we have many mutual friends, so I sent her a friend request. She declined. I finally summoned the courage to send her a message. I told her that I wasn’t sure what I’d done, but that I was sorry if I’d hurt or offended her, and I hoped we could make amends.
It was a week before she replied. She said she was offended by my sudden, out of the blue message. She said she couldn’t believe that I didn’t even know what had happened between us.
{How could something that was obviously so incredibly offensive to her, be completely unknown to me? That just doesn’t seem possible. Am I that clueless? That out of touch? How could I offend someone to that degree, and not even be aware of it?}
I messaged her back, citing what I thought might be the issue… a situation I felt was more of a simple misunderstanding than a reason to end a friendship that had endured more than a quarter of a century. A friendship that had seen marriages, babies, divorces, and great distance.
I sent that message almost 18 months ago. She has still not responded.
I know I wasn’t always the world’s best friend to her. At a time when she was going through a rough period, I wasn’t the support system she needed {although in my defense, I was going through my own thing at the time, and honestly, I barely had the energy to carry my own load, let alone someone else’s}.
I’m sure I let her down many times. Perhaps she finally reached the point where she simply decided she wouldn’t allow herself to be let down again, and that meant ending the friendship entirely.
I get that. I firmly believe that if a relationship is bad for you, sometimes you have to let it go. I get it.
What I don’t get is withholding forgiveness from someone. Forgiveness doesn’t mean everything’s fine and we’ll be best friends again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean the hurt and pain can be swept under a rug. In my opinion, forgiveness doesn’t even mean forgetting.
It simply means showing someone else the same grace that Christ showed you. If God is willing to forgive us no matter what our sin is, no matter how many times we sin against Him, how can a mere mortal refuse to forgive? 
God forgives the liars, the thieves, the child murderers, the rapists, the animal abusers, and even those who blaspheme Him. It’s pretty humbling to realize there’s someone who believes I am not even deserving of that.
For a while, my friend’s lack of forgiveness really bothered me. Nowadays I think about her often, but I don’t dwell on the turn our friendship has taken. Instead, I remember the good times we shared over many years, and I pray for her happiness, her health, and her children.
What do YOU do when someone you care about withholds forgiveness? How do you deal with it when they won’t forgive you? I’d love it if you’d share in comments below.
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  1. AlexCS says

    I have recently gone through exactly this with a friend from school. I went through a rough time with my current partner and she was there for me, although I didn’t feel I made an excessive demand on her. She always asked me questions about my situation and I answered them. A few months later she hit some family crises and had a lot of problems with stress, almost a mid-life breakdown, and I called and texted her every week or so. I used to go and see her in person and ask her questions but a lot of the time she said she’d rather not talk about it, so eventually I stopped asking questions. Then we had a big blow up because she said she felt that I wasn’t being very caring, even though I honestly had been trying my best to text and talk to her as often as I could. We had a huge argument where she accused me of being very self-centred and uncaring because I didn’t contact her (as much as she wanted me to). That drove me further and further away but I apologised and eventually she said she’d forgiven me. A few months after that there was another blowup about her wedding: my partner’s  brother is getting married next year at the same time as her and I said I’d try and go to both. She assumed this to mean I wasn’t coming to hers and had another go at me at not caring. At this time I was so stressed at work and couldn’t eat or sleep properly because I was so worried about how I’d offended her. Things went back to normal and I do remember apologising again. This year I left the city to go to university up north and I went to see her at her flat a few times before I went and everything was fine, we were even laughing and joking together. Once I got to uni I was absolutely bombarded with work and couldn’t stay in touch as often as I’d liked with any of my friends. A few weeks ago I texted her again but I could tell things weren’t right, and again she told me that she was disappointed that it took me so long to get in touch with her, and now she’d assumed I wasn’t coming to her wedding at all because I hadn’t been in touch. I was so hurt by this that I got angry and admittedly a bit aggressive in my texts, but I couldn’t believe it. We ended the conversation with her saying I clearly don’t care about anyone except my partner and myself. I sent her an email asking her to confirm whether or not she wanted me at her wedding and have not yet received a reply. This was 2 weeks ago. I can’t make her forgive or forget and I’m grieving for our friendship, however I feel that she is an emotional manipulator and a very negative person to be around, it takes a lot of work to maintain this friendship. So after advice from many I have decided to end this friendship, i feel like it is damaged beyond repair now. I am a Christian and so is she, but I am finding it hard to forgive her and she clearly has not forgiven me. I am handing it over to God, there is nothing else I can do now.

  2. Lizzie says

    Thank you for this post. I have been feeling great heartache over not being forgiven for harsh words said to my Mother. It’s especially difficult for me because I said harsh words following a conflict she initiated. Hurtful things were said to me as well, but it’s no excuse to disrespect your mother. I felt angry and attacked, and called her a Jerk and said we were done. Immediately that night I tried to call her about ten times. I left her two voicemails, sent long text messages. I’ve done just about everything but show up at her house (she wouldn’t like that). I’m working really hard to let her know how sorry I am for hurting her despite the fact that she hurt me first. And she is really dragging me through the mud. Its as if I don’t exist to her. And around the holidays, I’m taking it especially hard.

  3. Blnjms says

    I have a cousin who’s wife stopped speaking to me because I inadvertently got too nosy on Facebook–she called me a troublemaker–and she poisoned her family against me so that they (she and her two grown children) blocked me. Her husband, my cousin, didn’t block me but after the threatening voice mail he left me, I don’t want to message him for fear of being blasted again. I hadn’t been close to my cousin since childhood, but I wanted to get to know his wife and kids better. I guess that’s out of the question now. I’m working on forgiveness.

  4. sam says

    I am in a similar situation. I tried, and the friend was never there for me. I was all alone in a situation and needed her support and she wasn’t there. Then she severed ties when I tried to contact her, expressing my hurt at leaving me to deal with things myself. I don’t know…….she was a good friend, but it seemed only when it was convenient. :( I would like to talk with her, but she won’t give me the chance. How do I get out of this hurt?

  5. Susan Pardoe says

    I too have had this happen. At the time of this writing, I have a friend (cousin) who simply won’t respond to anything I send and I can’t get her to talk to me at all. I do believe I know why she isn’t talking to me and I’ve expressed that I want to ask her forgiveness, but she won’t respond, no matter what I say or do. This has been going on for nearly 18 years. I keep praying about it, that’s all I can do.

    Excellent post.

  6. Diane Ronzino says

    Chrissy, I know how you feel. I’ve been there. Unfortunately. My situatuion involves a then, my pastor’s wife. No forgiveness. Bitterness.

    I chose to only remember the good years as well. And I told her so. That’s when her venom was released.

    That has been a part of my LONG seven-year wilderness walk.

    Finally. FINALLY…I let her go into God’s Hand. There is nothing else I can do. It’s really between her and The LORD at this point.

    But, I know the loss. The ache. The frustration.

    Thanks for sharing so openly a very important topic – especially within the Body of Christ.

  7. Wendy says

    I’ve been in this situation too.
    I just have to accept their decision and move on with life. I’m not saying that it doesn’t hurt because it does. I’ve felt loss and sadness over the ending of a friendship but I refuse to beg for forgiveness. If they get to that point on their own terms, then great. Otherwise, I wish them well.

  8. says

    This is a powerful post! My situation is a bit different in that the person who won’t forgive me does stay in touch. But we are no longer close like we were. When she blasted me a few years ago, out of the blue, she let loose with stuff from our youth, decades ago. I acknowledged the truth of what she was saying, but I was dismayed at how little all the time since mattered. Yes, I was a self centered teenager, but really, I think I got better as I got older! Doesn’t matter. I learned a lot from that in terms of how unresolved anger can fester in us for years and years. I am sad that she can’t relate to me as we are today.

  9. says

    Kerri, it’s obviously been MONTHS since you left this comment, and I apologize that somehow I overlooked it and never responded. I hope that just maybe your ex-husband has had a change of heart since you wrote this… and if not, I guess all we can do is continue to pray.

    I have not had any contact from my friend, but I’ve considered making a last ditch effort to bridge the gap with her. If I finally decide to do it, I’ll let you know the outcome!

    Hope you’re well!

  10. says

    I hear you! My situation is a little different in that the one who will not forgive is my ex-husband. Neither one of us were Christians when our marriage broke and after I became a Christian, it took many years to come to a place where I could forgive myself, let alone him for the pain and hurt that happened between us. It was last year when I asked him for forgiveness and he denied me. He used the words that he was not “pure” enough to forgive me and that according to him, God wouldn’t forgive me either. I was brought to tears….not because I believed God wouldn’t forgive me but because he was so blind to who God truly is. I have prayed for him a few times since….not an easy thing for me. I don’t pray that he will forgive me, I pray he one day sees God for the wonderful, loving and forgiving Saviour that He is.
    Blessings, my friend. I believe that you are doing exactly what God has called us to do….Pray! A dear friend once told me….”we need to storm the Heaven’s with prayer”…not just for those near and dear but for strangers and even enemies!
    Just keep praying, girl!

  11. says

    Not easy but you have to let it go! You have done what “is possible for you to be at peace with all men” and now you have to step back and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to her. Not really any other options! But I am so sorry!

    I do understand because we are in a very similar situation with our oldest son. For whatever reason … letting it go is easier for me than for my husband. But every holiday, birthday, family moment … I see that look on his face and know he is recounting regrets. Wishing we could bridge the gap. But for now … it’s out of our hands!

  12. says

    Cyn, I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your comment long ago. I’ll pray for you, that you might be able to find it in your heart to forgive your mother… although I can see that it would be difficult to do so.

    Hope you’re doing well! :)

  13. cynthia chapman says

    I am having a hard time forgiving my mother. Long story BUT she let me grandparents raise me while she did “her thing” BUT does your friend NOT know, it says in the bible..if you can’t forgive others, God CAN NOT forgive you?? That alone scares me..God NOT forgiving me!!! I am working on completley forgiving my mom. I pray someday your friend forgives you, and tells you what she forgave you for.

  14. says

    Can’t believe I never replied to this comment, Beth. I’m so sorry.

    Are things ANY better now with your son? Nothing has changed with my friend, but I’d like to try again. I’m thinking of sending her one last attempt at reconciliation. All we can do is pray, right?

  15. Sally says

    This post just spoke to me. I’m in a similar situation with an opposite arc friend I’ve known for decades. He unleashed a litany of complaints he never brought yo my attention before and to this day don’t think they’re insurmountable issues. At least not enough to end a friendship over. But he did and it still hurts like crazy. I tried a few times over the past year and hit no response. We’ve had a couple benign run ins and mail exchanges. I’ve thought about trying again but don’t want the rejection. What is it about human nature that prevents forgiveness?? I find it sad and tragic. Perhaps it’s ego.

  16. Annie says

    I feel the same way you do. I have a slightly different situation though. My friend asked me if I needed glasses and I said I don’t want glasses because people can get marks near their eyes. My friend wore glasses and she thought I was talking about her. She got really mad and now she won’t forgive me no matter what. I said sorry a lot of times but she was really mad. She told my other friends that I called her ugly but they didn’t believe her. She’s been telling people that I think I’m awesome and smart and that I think everyone is ugly but me. I never said that though. She stopped talking about me to people but she hates me. It’s been 4 months since this happened. I stopped apologizing after 1 week. She is friendly and I feel depressed every time I see her. I am always thinking about it and when people say move on, it makes me feel even worse. My friends told me that she doesn’t even want to see my face. Somehow, her happiness make me sad and everyday for the past 4 months, I have been thinking about it. I told people my problem but they are not helping. I feel like one of my other friends are rubbing it in my face that we got a fight because my friend keeps on saying she is best friends with the girl who is mad at me and she always talks about her to me. She doesn’t rub it in to the girl who is mad at me though. It makes me mad but I never say I am mad because I don’t want another fight. I have been very depressed lately and I don’t have a best friend to talk it over with. The girl who is mad at me has a best friend who cheers her up. I always feel sad and my goal was to never have a argument with anyone but that goal is gone now.

  17. says

    What a great post – I loved reading it and am sorry you are dealing with that situation. I think we all in some ways can relate, which makes is such a great piece of work!

    I fell out of touch with a best friend as well. It wasn’t my fault – and it wasn’t hers. We were just in very different places in our lives – I was married, with a child – she was still working on school, etc. Life moves people in different directions. I wish her no ill will and I hope she feels the same way. I did try to contact her a few times to let her know I was thinking of her – no response. I realize I can’t control that – or the past – so choose to just do the best I can each day.
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  18. Dee says

    My friend won’t forgive me. She says she does, but she does not. I misunderstood something that happened. I have tried to apologize and it has been a year since we have been friends. The worst thing is that our daughters were best friends as well. As punishment for my mistake, which did not in ANY way involve the girls, she has refused to let her daughter see mine. Even at church if my daughter went up to talk to her, she would take her daughter away…ushering her away from my daughter! My daughter was clueless. I, for many months, didn’t say anything to her bc I didn’t want to make my friend look bad and hoped for reconciliation. She refused all phone calls. Refused to let her daughter come over. After six months we finally spoke, but it was clear that she still can’t forgive. Says she Has, but will not let our daughters be friends. It’s CRAZY! When I finally told my daughter, apologetic and in tears for hurting her as well, she said, “Well, she must not have ever really been your friend if she can’t forgive you for this.” It was just a big misunderstanding. My feelings were hurt. No amount of apologies have helped. And I am done begging for forgiveness. They moved to a new city, which we knew was happening before the incident, but didn’t even let my daughter say goodbye! Now I feel like I need to forgive. My daughter will NEVER get over this. This has scarred her for life. Before I even told her what happened she was having nightmares about why her friend wasn’t allowed to speak to her. Having nightmares about the mom hating her. I’m just not sure where to go from here. We sent the daughter bday presents. Haven’t heard back. I know the daughter must be upset as well. I pray when she is old enough, she will contact my daughter on her own.

  19. says

    Really appreciated all the comments and the original blog, “When They Won’t Forgive You.” It has been one week since I have been disowned by my oldest child. I thought that we were working toward a healthier relationship but another request came for me to go into the past with her and discuss things, and this time I emailed her and said no. A few days later I received a horrendous email saying how bad I was and that unless I could learn to be a real Mama she would have nothing to do with me. Thankfully I have been told by my other three adult children that she is the problem and not me. They know that I have apologized many times. They believe that she doesn’t want to take responsibility for her poor choices so she must blame someone. I pray good things for her and will continue to do so. She has asked me not to contact her and I will honor that. In a way, she has freed me. That relationship was very hard work, and although I will always love her and hope for reconciliation, I appreciate the break.

    • says

      Lucy, thanks for the comment. I’m sorry about the situation with your daughter, and I hope it works out how ever you would like it to. I completely understand what you mean about feeling freed from her. It’s sad when a relationship takes that kind of turn, but I think it’s probably more common than any of us would care to admit.

  20. Nicola says

    I’d like to say thank you for your honest account in this. I have been searching all over the internet for answers to a questions such as this.
    My story is with my first, now ex, boyfriend. I’m Christian and at 24 moved to a new city. I had prayed for so long for God to bring me a partner to share my life with. Within 3 weeks of being in the new city, I met this lovely gentleman who bonus was also a Christian. We were both starting on the same training course which was a year long. I didn’t rush things but he eventually asked me out on a date, which went relatively well. Then everything was going great, it was the honeymoon phase and he told me he loved me very early on. He also wanted to become physically intimate quite soon on, but I said we should wait. After 4 weeks of feeling on a cloud and the excitement of finally being in a relationship, it all began to go down hill. He began to treat me badly and speak to me like dirt. But I loved him and sometimes there was a glimmer of the man I fell in love with so I stayed. Over time he began to resent me, started speaking to his ex girlfriend and compared me to Christian girls in his Church. He started saying I wasn’t Christian and didn’t dress well and would some times call me an idiot.
    It was a hard year, so I put some of it down to stress, but when it ended he still put other people before me. I still think he genuinely loved me and I treated him so well. I cuddled him and cared for him when he cried, I treated him even if I could not afford it. Valentines day, he didn’t even get me a card.
    As it was I grew tired of his treatment and decided to end things. He begged for me not to and begged me to stay friends because he considered me his best friend. I agreed, but said I needed time to get over us. 4 weeks later he got a new girlfriend and I was devastated, it was like I meant nothing to him. I started to get over it and a few months just text him to see how he was. He ignored me. A few months after that I was not looking for reconciliation, but I apologised for the way I broke up with him and asked his forgiveness. Again ignored me.

    I knew then I had done all I could that God asked of me. I had tried to apologise and ask for his forgiveness.

    In the end it showed me what kind of a person he really was, and if he can’t even accept an apology, that would not have been someone I could have spent the rest of my life with.

    Once you have done all you can, given a heart felt sincere apology and asked for forgiveness and they still refuse, it is time for you to move on, because that person clearly has a lot of issues to deal with.

  21. Nedda says

    Thank for sharing, Christina. I am in a similar position, only it has been going on for over seven years now.

    I grew up with a verbally abusive father who constantly belittled me and put me down (even publicly) and made me feel like I’m somehow deficient. As a result I have terrible feelings of inferiority and am extremely sensitive to all kinds of rejection. In high school I felt rejected by my best friend, who started dating a boy and basically forgot about me. My way of dealing with these feelings of rejection was by putting her down constantly, putting her new boyfriend down, putting her new friends down and generally treating her in a mean and almost abusive way. After high school, i went away to college and didn’t see her for several months. When I was back in town I called her at home and her mother , whom I have known since I was a child, picked up and without even returning my greeting, told me in the coldest and harshest tone, that my friend was not there. I asked her to please let my friend know that I was in town and would like to see her before I leave; my friend never called back. Next time I was back in town, I again called my friend and, to my great shock, she hung up as soon as she heard my voice. Not long after that I sent her a heartfelt email apologizing for my behavior in high school, trying to explain myself and hoping she would forgive me. It’s been seven years and I still haven’t heard back from her.

    I now feel like an abusive monster, whose own best friend wants nothing to do with her. I suffer incredibly from feelings of shame and cringe every time I think about her hanging up on me. I can’t get over these feelings of shame and mortification and it’s taking a serious toll on my mental health.

    I have thought of emailing her or calling her again, but am afraid she will just hang up again or think I am stalking her and I will end up feeling worse.

    If anyone has been through a similar situation, I would truly appreciate any advice.

    Thanks a lot

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