Forgive AND Forget?

I’ve read a ton of stuff about forgiving the people who cause us pain.

Forgive and forget matrix

It’s valuable information.  It provides a great blueprint for handling relationships that hurt.  It keeps us from becoming victims.

The advice is usually focused on one phrase:

Forgive and forget.

The first word (“forgive”) is where we usually put our energy.  It takes a series of conscious choices to forgive someone who has wronged us.

If we don’t forgive, we put the other person in control of our emotions.  We say, “They ruined my life.”  In effect, we shift the blame to them for anything that’s wrong in our lives.  We feel like they messed everything up, so we don’t take responsibility for moving forward.

I get it.  I buy it.  I’ve seen the value of taking responsibility for our own emotional health.

It’s good to forgive.  Not easy, but good.  It’s worth the effort.

But I’ve always had a problem with the second word – forget.

Somehow, it feels unhealthy to forget. It’s like saying, “The hurt never happened.”

But the greater the hurt, the harder it is to forget.

And I’m not sure we should.

Forgive and forget matrixMaybe it’s a co-worker who stabbed us in the back on their way to the top.  Maybe it’s a close friend who betrayed us.  Maybe it’s a spouse who damaged us with their choices.

We’ll probably always remember the damage that was done – especially when we live with the scars. We’ll always remember what people did to us.  If the relationship is important, we’ll forgive – but not forget.

If I forget the hurt, I set myself up to be hurt again.

If I remember the hurt, I can choose what to do with it.  I might be able to let it go . . . but I might establish boundaries in our relationship to keep it healthy in the future.

Trust doesn’t happen immediately when it’s been broken; it takes time to rebuild.

What if we said, “Forgive and remember?”

Maybe our forgiveness would gain meaning, because it’s based on reality.  Remembering allows us to be realistic instead of bitter.

It’s like growing up with an emotionally abusive parent who’s been gone for years.  “Forgiving and remembering” doesn’t ignore the hurt.  But instead of obsessing about the wrong done to us, we can use it to heal.  “My life is tougher because of what they did – but I can make choices about how I live.”

C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”

Got someone you’ve been trying to forgive and forget, but it’s just not working?  Is there someone who has their emotions in their grip?

What would it look like if you could break free?  What would it look like to forgive and remember?


A blog (at least this one) isn’t a teaching tool; it’s a conversation starter.  I’ve been sharing my often unfinished thoughts over these months, and you’ve picked up the conversation by reacting and commenting.  That’s awesome – it’s how we learn from each other and grow.

Keep sharing your thoughts.  Invite others to join the discussion.  Keep interacting with each other.

Maybe we’ll all grow a little in the process.

  • Indiana Grandma

    I’m over 60 and have plenty of forgive and remember, some hurts are too painful or too frequent to forget but need to be remembered so you can do just what you propose and set boundaries so you aren’t constantly a whipping ball. People respect you more if you do and you are a healthier person.

    • I think you’re right. “Healthy remembering” is the foundation by which we make healthy choices in our relationships. Thanks for sharing!