Rod White writes:
What if they don’t say they are sorry?
This is always the big question when it comes to forgiveness. What if the person who hurt us is not sorry? It is not uncommon for someone to protest when forgiveness is suggested:
I can’t let my guard down. That would be surrendering and acting like they were justified in hurting me. They would get away with their crime! I would be just as vulnerable to more of the abuse I just suffered.
I will not forgive until the other person: 1) knows that wrong was done; 2) feels an inner sorrow for doing it; 3) apologizes to me; 4) and makes amends. Then I’ll know it is safe to forgive and enter back into the relationship.
…What kids rarely learn is that forgiveness is more for the forgiver than for the offender. Forgiveness is not, “I am OK with what you did.” It isn’t even, “I accept your apology.” It is, “I am not going to hold this in me or against you anymore.”
I'd suggest that forgiveness is something entirely in the power of you, the one offended. Like any act of love, it depends you you, not on the person being loved. Forgiveness is the choice to cancel any debt of retribution or restitution that keeps you identifying yourself as a victim, a wounded and wronged person.
There is no question of empathy or justification involved. What they did was wromg and it hurt you; you would not think about forgiving if they had not sinned against you. You're not judgng a person when you admit the fact that they did you wrong.
Forgiveness from God is free for the asking; it is what he wants to do and nobody can stop him. But reconciliation ("atonement" in King James vocab) is the fruit of repentance – empowered by God but requiring our cooperation. Synergy doesn't happen without work on both ends, either between us and Christ, or between us.
Just as divine forgiveness for sins is not salvation, our choosing to practice forgiveness as freedom from resentment is not a restoration of trust and intimacy, and it's not a personal transformation; that work of reconciliation remains to be done.