The picture of a key, unlocking a formidable door comes to mind. My heart is locked. I am holding resentments and reminding myself of the ways in which you have hurt me, going over them repeatedly in my head so I do not forget and let you in by mistake. Fool me once...
Along comes an apology that really works for me. Not one of those half baked, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or "I wouldn't have hit you if hadn't egged me on," apologies, but a real apology, the way I like them. My defenses soften and it becomes easier to make the decision to let you in one more level and see if you will follow through with what you said you would do differently. I become cautiously optimistic.
We often can forgive the transgression, real or imagined, when we get a good apology. If you hurt me, though, and do a faux apology or do not apologize, that simply adds to the original hurt.
Want to learn more about apologies? There is a great page that describes The Apology Profile (within the website the Five Languages of Love). Different people like to hear different things in an apology.
I prefer to hear that it hurt you when you realized you hurt me, that there is not only regret but also remorse. Those are necessary, but we are not done yet. For me, I absolutely must hear that it will not happen again and you will do what it takes to not do it again. Without action, it is just meaningless words.
After that apology, I need to see that you keep your word.
Now, you have helped me unlock that door and we can begin to cautiously move forward.
Most humans, we want to forgive, to trust. Make it easy for me to forgive and trust you.