So, you messed up. Badly. Worse than you could ever imagine you were capable of messing up. You did it. You know you did it. You know you didn’t mean to do it, or maybe you did mean to do it, at the time, but you never meant for the consequences of what you meant to do to turn out the way they did.

So you apologize. And apologize. And apologize. You beg and plead for forgiveness. You ask to do any task to prove how sorry you are. And the survivor of your offense still says: “No.” Or maybe, the survivor of your offense accepts your apologies but says “no” to you playing a role in their lives ever ever again.

What now?

Well, you’ll probably cycle through the 5 stages of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance–not necessarily in that order. And every stage will hurt you. But here’s the thing: you don’t own the person you hurt. They don’t have to forgive you or listen to you or reconcile with you because it’s what you want. They get to choose how they deal with how you’ve hurt them. Those are the rules of human decency.

Does that make your grief over what you did any less valid or raw or real? Of course not! But your grief is no one else’s problem but yours. The one you’ve hurt does not need to be hurt again as you explode through your own grief and violate their boundaries when they’ve said “No,” to you through words or actions. Because you’re a good person–a decent person, at least–you want to respect their choices and their humanity. You don’t want to keep hurting them with your inability to deal. So here’s how to deal when someone you love says “no” to forgiveness or reconciliation.

1) Swallow Your pride.

You may think that reaching out to someone who has said “no” to you is you swallowing your pride. You’re groveling, after all. Where’s the pride in that? All over the place. And it’s gross. Continuing to reach out is just your ego wanting to be heard and understood and forgiven. That is you trying to get someone else to give you what you want, at any cost: Make me feel important! Make me whole! Make this hurt I’m feeling go away! That is not their job, ever. It’s yours. Swallowing your pride means putting your desire for forgiveness and reconciliation to the side and centering the feelings of the person you’ve hurt and their desire to have a life that doesn’t include you in it. You MUST respect that. Swallow your pride = Leave the ones you’ve hurt alone forever!

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