A few weeks ago, a situation developed between me and another person where they felt the need to apologize. In all honesty, I was a bit irritated with the person and their behavior prior to receiving their call asking if they could come to see me in person.
However, they did come see me in person. They did sincerely apologize. And they genuinely felt sorry for their actions.
During the conversation, they said: “I don't know why I did what I did.” I said: “I guess it's because you're human.” I then reminded them of the scene in the Disney movie The Lion King when Rafiki hit Simba on the head. After receiving a whack on the head, Simba said: “Hey, why did you do that!” Rafiki replied: “It don't matta'. It's in the past.”
When I told the story, I smiled and the other person smiled. The tension broke, and we moved forward with our relationship.
In this case, the other person really did do something that required an apology. And, they genuinely apologized.
They apologized. I accepted. We moved on together. We have now been in several meetings since then where we have worked productively and positively together.
When people apologize, there is nothing to be gained by attempting to humiliate them further. Accept the apology. Honor their sincerity, and move on. Remember, “It don't matta'. It's in the past.”