How can we morally repair broken relationships?

TDF's ethics scholar, Dr. Julie Ponesse, explains how people can begin to repair their broken relationships over the past two years in six steps.


The events of the last two years have caused a great deal of moral injury, especially to our personal relationships. Repairing them will take much work but also the realization that not all relationships can be repaired.

For those that can be rebuilt, we need to be patient: relationships that take years to build can be broken in a moment, but they can’t be repaired in a moment. Be patient with yourself and those who wronged you.

And remember that, just like building physical muscles, “rupture and repair” can build deeper, more enduring relationships.

6 steps to repairing broken relationships: 

  1. Realize that morality doesn’t require perfection. Making mistakes, even morally injuring others, is part of being human.

  2. Own up to being the morally relevant cause of the injury (e.g. “I shut you out when you were just trying to talk to me.”).

  3. Express regret and sincerely apologize for the injury (e.g. “I wish I didn’t ignore you. I’m sorry.”)

  4. Make concrete intentions to morally reset the relationship (e.g. “In the future, I will do better to listen before judging and cancelling you.”) 

  5. Do it: follow through on your intentions with action (e.g. Actively listen the next time your friend approaches you.) 

  6. Realize that not all relationships can be rebuilt. Some cuts are too deep. Morality doesn’t require you to forgive the unforgivable.
Dr. Julie Ponesse

Dr. Julie Ponesse


Dr. Julie Ponesse is the Ethics Scholar for The Democracy Fund and author of the new book: My Choice: The Ethical Case Against Covid19 Vaccine Mandates. Dr. Ponesse's focus is on educating Canadians about civil liberties.

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