Does Forgiveness Really Require Forgetting?



Forgive and forget. It’s an old phrase that we have heard countless times over the years. But is it truly wisdom?

I suppose that the answer might lie in your interpretation. Stockpiling every hurtful action that ever impacted you over the course of your life would be overwhelmingly negative. The level of ever-increasing pain combined with the cacophony of bad memories drumming around in our minds would overwhelm us. We simply wouldn’t be able to function if we were completely unable to set those heavy thoughts free. In that sense, I can appreciate the sentiment.

However what if we approach the question from a different angle? Should we base our “forgive and forget” / “forgive and no way can I forget” criteria on the severity of the hurt instead? Do we opt to retain loaded memories of those inflictions while choosing to release others? If the action created severe pain, can you truly forget it?

This is a concept that I wrestle with more often than I would prefer. Even though I appreciate the idea of giving a clean slate those who have hurt me deeply, I have yet to master a way to permanently eradicate something that shattered my trust or dishonored my confidence. I can forgive a devastating emotional assault. Been there. Done that. Big freakin’ time.

But forgetting it altogether? Not so much.

I’m not referring to holding a grudge, planning payback, or going full honey badger on the offending party. I’m talking about reality. I don’t pretend that I give trust easily once it has been broken. I don’t at all. I am referring to the bigger picture – really understanding who you are and seeing that other person for who he or she is as well. This is about seeing the behavior patterns and being honest about the likelihood of true contrition and permanent change.

As an example, I want to be bathing suit confident. I fantasize about it. Really. I sometimes thumb through the Athleta catalog that somehow mistakenly finds its way into my mailbox, think mean thoughts about my skinny svelte friends who could wear string bikinis to the grocery store and look fabulous, remember once more that I adore them anyway, and then put the magazine back down so I can pick my fork up again to polish off the last of the cheesecake that is probably in front of me.

If I was a superhero (and I am…), I would have two arch nemeses (arch nemesises???). Sporks (I loathe these plasticware rejects and speak fiercely against them at random) and salads pretending to be meals (I dislike them so much that I once wrote a whole post in protest of the way they have made my plates look sad – – that’s a serious and somewhat strange commitment to talking smack about veggies). I am never going to willingly grab a spork and dig into my sad salad meal when I have a chance to get an actual piece of acceptable silverware (a fork OR a spoon – NOT BOTH) and eat cake instead.

Are those rational behaviors on my part? Yes. (NO.) Even though I know that I am being a bonehead, do I expect that my behavior is that going to change? No. (NO.) It’s just how I roll. While I may hope to be wiser, smarter, and better when I make my choices, my past history will accurately tell you that you should save your money and avoid stocking up on kale before I visit your home for dinner.

The best predictor of someone’s behavior is not what a person wants to do or what he or she wants to be able to wear out of the Athleta catalog. Your major hint at what is likely to occur is what that person has previously done. People really can change, and that does happen. Lord knows that I am not the same girl I was in college. (Ironically that girl could have shopped at Athleta, but in order to do so, she would have needed to exit the bar scene first – no Athleta for her either.)

Until you begin to see honest ongoing changes that align with your emotional needs, do yourself a huge favor – don’t plan on that happening right away. In truth, change may not come ever.

If someone will genuinely let you into their world, you may have a chance to help them for the positive. Nevertheless you still have to remember that their choices are called their choices for a reason. A person who continually chooses behaviors that hurt you will likely continue that pattern. Some relationships are so destructive that your healthiest option is to set them free / turn them loose / get off the pot / run for the frickin’ hills. Thankfully most relationships can be maintained. Just know that you are dealing an imperfect but probably predictable human. There are instances when something happens one time only but is so devastating or dangerous that your best choice is wishing that person well and completely moving on. Only you can know if you are facing that moment, but if you are, honor your inner knowing and follow the guidance you are receiving.

Forgiveness is an essential element of healing, and the most important part of that healing happens from within. WIth that said, in extreme situations, I don’t necessarily feel that forgetting is as vital. At times, choosing to ignore an assault (emotional, physical, mental) can be a dangerous approach.

Pray for clarity and guidance to help you understand what is a stumble, what is a lesson, and what is a warning.

Hope for the best as you learn to recognize the behavior patterns you are facing within yourself and others. Most people won’t change, and it is unrealistic to expect that of them. Unless you are someone’s parent or guardian, you probably won’t get to make choices on behalf of another. The only actions you can control are your own.

You don’t have to be jaded to see with open eyes nor do you have to wipe the memories clear in order to find healing. Forgetting may not be possible, but thankfully, forgiveness is.

Love and light always – Joanna

***photo credit – Huckleberry Arms



33 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wakinguponthewrongsideof50
    Oct 24, 2017 @ 16:51:18

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that’s its much easier to forgive than to hold a grudge. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to forget the hurt, but it is possible to just get on with it. The times I’ve forgiven someone have been worth it, and the times I’ve been forgiven…..well……I appreciate the chance that I got a do over with someone I care about. It’s funny, but I’m writing something (fiction) about someone needing the strength to forgive someone else!


  2. José María López
    Oct 24, 2017 @ 17:05:33

    I had a mentor who says “we all have the best reasons to behave the way we do”. I think he is completely right. Everybody has their own challenges and beliefs and when they do something bad to us it is the just a consequence of that. Forgetting sometimes is difficult or even useless, but letting go the bad feelings and emotions is the smart thing to do, just forgive even if we don´t forget.


  3. overthehillontheyellowbrickroad
    Oct 24, 2017 @ 17:09:54

    All so true. I struggle forgiving my stepmother and stepsister. I think the distance I keep from them is self-protective on some level. I’m taking care of myself because I don’t want to be hurt again.


    • MoJo
      Oct 24, 2017 @ 21:23:13

      ❤️ Did you ever see the movie Ever After? I have visions of this. I’m so sorry that they hurt you darling. I think that the step parent dynamic is an especially tricky one. The jealousy and insecurities are just ripe for the picking in too many families. I believe that we have to face our challenges for a reason but I do wish that I would wipe some of those hurts from my heart. Sending you hugs my sweet friend.


      • overthehillontheyellowbrickroad
        Oct 25, 2017 @ 06:34:49

        Thank you so, so much for your kind, sensitive, insightful words.

      • MoJo
        Oct 25, 2017 @ 18:36:24

        I’m not sure about my insight, but I am certain that you are amazing. Please don’t allow their words and actions to define you. We all carry hurts, and unfortunately, we have a crappy habit of allowing those the leave our personal boundaries and whack other people around in the process. You are a beautiful soul my friend. I am thankful for you.

  4. Jodi
    Oct 24, 2017 @ 21:30:35

    I thank God that as I’ve gotten older it is easier to let things go. Be it little or big. What a great post to talk about this issue that people have, my daughter is surely going through this now.


  5. Megala
    Oct 25, 2017 @ 00:56:43

    Great post ! I remember a quote by Mahatma Gandhi: The weak can never forgive, forgiveness is an attribute of the strong” !!


    • MoJo
      Oct 25, 2017 @ 18:34:11

      Yes I heard the Dalai Lama talk about forgiveness once. He said that someone made the comment to him that forgiveness was easy. His response was, “Have you tried it?” mean of course that it’s tough stuff. But it’s important stuff, too. 🙂


  6. janieleeds
    Oct 25, 2017 @ 08:10:25

    I struggle with forgiveness at times, but I’m seeing the light more often now which helps. It’s like drinking poison and hoping the other guy gets sick. I don’t want to live like that and you are so right, it’s a choice. I think you have to see the gift in the end result (at least for me). And you know my story xo


    • MoJo
      Oct 25, 2017 @ 18:38:12

      Inconceivable! (Did you ever see The Princess Bride?) (I’m on a movie kick today. Not sure why but your analogy made me think of that.) (Also I do know your story, and I also know that you are incredible.) (Also also I appear to be obsessed with parentheses today as well.) 😉


  7. Blog Andrew
    Oct 25, 2017 @ 11:58:05

    I’m a forgive and lol ‘sort of forget’ but I do genuinely forgive. But you are right, if one didn’t then the bad memories would overwhelm us, I’ve worked with two people who didn’t talk for thirty years ALL because one took the other’s newspaper into the toilet to read without asking first!! So sad 😦


    • MoJo
      Oct 25, 2017 @ 18:39:57

      I see that with lots of families. I have a couple of weird situations in my own family at the moment, and as much as they sadden me, I would be so good for us all to be reunited if those people would respond to the rest of us. Also I would cut someone who took my paper to the toilet. (Just kidding but seriously – don’t do that.) 😉


  8. Blog Andrew
    Oct 25, 2017 @ 12:08:54

    😀 When you get to ‘itsy bitsy bikini string’ confident you’ll have to post a picture! (Sorry I just couldn’t resist that one 😀 )


  9. Tracy
    Oct 29, 2017 @ 02:24:30

    Forgiving is self-care. I know how detrimental holding onto hurt can be. Forgiving means that the wounds are allowed to heal. The scars will always be there – a reminder of what those people did and also a reminder of how strong we’ve been to carry that load with us for so long. X


    • MoJo
      Oct 29, 2017 @ 10:18:10

      I still think about your post about the big mean girl at your school when you were a kid. It’s funny how those small things to some people are such big things to someone else. I love the way you released that. It truly is about healing ourselves. You are amazing girl! ❤️


  10. witandwisdom4u
    Jan 06, 2018 @ 13:09:17

    The forgetting part is a hard one.


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