I see it as a multi-step process in the larger "Making Apology" dance we sometimes must do in relationship.
If I have hurt someone by mistake, when I become aware of it I must
1) Tell them I am sorry for the hurt and I will try not to do it again. (my turn in the apology dance)
2) Ask them if they can forgive me. Now it is their turn in the apology dance because they have to choose (A) or (B):
A) If they choose "yes" and forgive me?
B) They choose "no" and do NOT to forgive me. They do NOT grant opportunity to make amends.
1a) Now I must ask how can I make amends so we are back in right relationship:
- Sometimes just saying sorry is deemed enough and they will tell me so.
- Sometimes just acknowledgement is NOT enough and something else is could be required of me to make ammends. Like if I borrow a book and got it wet, I may have to buy them a replacement book first before we can be good again.
Just because *I* say I'm sorry and start the apology process, doesn't mean they automatically will forgive me and give opportunity to make amends so we can return to right relationship. I may have hurt them and broken trust so they may not be willing to be at risk to me again.
3) Relationship status is now:
A) We agree to return to where we were and continue the relationship.
B) The relationship is severed.
Most of the time infractions are minor and you run thru the whole dance almost on autopilot. At the crowded store this week I accidentally bopped a man with my purse on the arm when walking past in a narrow aisle and I said "Oops! Sorry!" and he said "No prob! It's ok!" and we both kept on going with our grocery lists.
But for larger things in deeper relationship there could be bigger time in between steps of the Apology Dance and it won't be THAT fast. Sometimes a person have to take a mental step back and evaluate and discern if they are willing to try again or not here. It may also be a case of "I do forgive you, but I no longer want to continue in relationship."
I have had to tell a few people that -- friends who got too flaky to tolerate. I forgive them the thing, but I was over the chronic goofy so it was healthier for ME to forgive and then let the friendship go. No opportunity to make amends, no continuing friendship.