Can you forgive and forget?

Many cannot find it in their heart to forgive someone who has hurt them. However, experts agree that it is a good thing to forgive in most instances for your own benefit instead of carrying around a toxic grudge against the other person or persons for ever.

How can we describe forgiveness?

  • Forgiveness has been described as making a conscious, intentional decision to let go of feelings of anger, or resentment or need for revenge. It has also been described as going back and becoming the person you were before the hurt.

What forgiveness is NOT

  • People find the concept of forgiveness hard because it seems to condone what has been done to them by another. But deciding to “for” give, to go back “before” the hurt does not mean that you pretend that the hurt is not serious, or that you condone it in any way or excuse the other person.  You don’t have to have a reconciliation with the person or decide not to legally prosecute them if this is necessary.
  • Women in situations of extreme physical, emotional abuse or domestic violence, have often been encouraged to “forgive and forget”, especially when the offending partner says they are “sorry” and will not repeat the abuse. Forgiving may result in more injury or even loss of life if they had a violent partner.  In this situation it is not sensible to practise forgiveness at that time, but to get out of the situation.  Whether or not the women (or man) decides to forgive the perpetrator later is up to them, but they do it then from a safe place.

Forgiveness is for you

  • Rather than carrying around rage, anger, resentment, feelings of hurt, which are self-perpetuating and damaging psychologically, emotionally and possibly physically, it is better to decide to forgive the other person, and maybe yourself if you think this is necessary.
  • Deciding to purposefully let go of the feelings of hurt and anger and accept that it happened, and accepting that these feelings are damaging to you allows you to move forward and hopefully leave the hurt behind. You can recognize the pain and suffering  but you don’t let it control the rest of your life.
  • Harbouring feelings of rage or anger can send our blood pressure up, release stress hormones into the body, and push our heart rate up. If this continues then significant damage can be done to the body.
  • Continuing to think, dwell and ruminate on the hurt and harm can also poison our mind, make us more anxious and depressed and stressed.

    What can you learn from the hurt and harm?

  • There is usually something to learn from an experience, especially a hurtful one. You may have contributed in some way to the event and need to practice some self-forgiveness.  When you stand back and think about the event or events more objectively, hopefully without the anger or rage, then you may see that if you have been betrayed that you need to be consciously more aware of what is going on in your life.  You may have been denying something that everyone else could see.  Denying until it was too late.
  • Maybe you gave too many chances to someone who did not deserve them. Perhaps you need to learn to be more selective in your choice of a partner, or in the choice of friends.  Maybe you need to be more tuned into your intuition and go with your gut feeling about a person or a situation that does not feel  “right”.  You can always learn to say “no” gracefully and get out of a situation before you get stuck in it.

Forgiveness is the best response in a situation

  • Forgiveness is something you offer to someone who has hurt you. It need not be done personally but you may want to do that, but it is something that you do within yourself, to let all the hurt go, and to decide to move on.  It doesn’t matter whether the person deserves it or not.  It’s about positively improving your inner self.

Sometimes forgiving the other person in person can change the whole situation and bring about a reconciliation and happiness between the two of you.  On the other hand if the person does not believe that they have done you a wrong, or they are not going to admit to it, then they may be more hostile and defensive, and this approach could make things worse.  Forgiveness is a two-edged sword sometimes, but you can always forgive them, for your own well-being, even if they don’t know you have.