Forgiveness is a crucial skill, but can you also forget what you’re forgiving — and should you?
We’ve all heard the adage “forgive and forget” when someone has wronged us. The idea is that this will keep the peace, preserve relationships, and maintain a calm mind.
Sounds good, but can you really do that — forgive an offense and then forget about it? And is that the best action to take?
Because this advice has been handed out for ages, you might think it’s rooted in deep wisdom, and it must be easy to do.
Wisdom? Yes, in part. Easy? No, definitely not.
This adage that we’re all so familiar with might be more properly phrased as, “forgive, but don’t forget.”
If you don’t forget, can you really forgive? It can be difficult to truly forgive someone when you know how they’ve hurt you.
But no one said that forgiveness was easy. It may be extremely hard. Forgiveness may be as much for you as it is for the person to whom you’re granting it.
Forgiveness may help release emotional baggage, such as anxiety, anger, and pain. A 2019 studyTrusted Source notes that several studies have linked forgiveness to lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Convinced but unsure of how to start? You’re not alone.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to begin the process, consider the following tips:
The study of nearly 1,000 women ages 18 to 40 found that those who emotionally forgave an offense held the person less responsible for the offense than those who decided to forgive.
If you’re still having trouble forgiving, especially when you can’t forget, there may be some good reasons to continue trying.
Knowing how to forgive someone can be an essential life skill. It can save friendships, restore faith in our kids, and keep romantic relationships intact.
A 2015 studyTrusted Source suggests that there are two types of forgiveness:
Experts in this study suggest that emotional forgiveness can lead to higher levels of forgetting than decisional forgiveness or no forgiveness.
A 2021 study also suggests that forgetting is easier with emotional forgiveness than decisional forgiveness or no forgiveness.
But does forgiving someone require that you forget what they’ve done? Not necessarily.
“Forgiving and forgetting” implies that you’ve moved on and no longer think about the offensive act. But forgiving an offense can be hard to do.
Forgiveness is an important skill, and it can be positive. It may improve both your mental and physical health and lead to resolution and personal growth in some cases.
And even though you’ve forgiven someone, it doesn’t mean you have to forget their offense.
Forgiveness is a process that can take time and may require some effort.
If you want help, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for guidance. They can help you with the next steps and provide you with tools to cope with your circumstances.
“Forgiving and forgetting” is a choice, and if you choose not to do either, that’s OK.
It also notes that forgiveness may even improve physical health and pain, while unforgiveness may increase heart rate and blood pressure.