Have you ever heard someone say, “I can forgive, but I can’t forget”? Perhaps you’ve said it yourself.
I know I’ve heard people say that and it makes me wonder: What’s forgiveness all about if it’s not about forgetting?
We’ve all had people do or say things to us that got our hackles up. It may have even made us angry and resentful, perhaps even hateful and vengeful.
The problem with this is that it has a deleterious effect on our bodies and our psyches. The longer we hang onto these feelings, the more of a negative effect they have on us.
If we say we forgive a person or persons for whatever they did or said, but we don’t forget, then we are only fooling ourselves. Our minds may say we indeed forgive, but our bodies, which hold onto the old negative feelings, continue to remember. And that’s not good.
Here’s the thing: In continuing to remember, those negative feelings continue to affect our bodies and our psyches.
On the other hand, the forgiven but unforgotten goes on his or her way completely unaffected by whatever we are experiencing. They’ve probably even forgotten whatever it was he or she said or did that affected us in a negative way. Thus, the only person who is likely hurt by our forgiving but not forgetting attitude is us.
Here’s what dictionary.com says about the verb forgive:
- to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
- to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
- to grant pardon to (a person).
- to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies (emphasis mine).
- to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.
Without getting religious, I wish to quote one scripture that illustrates what I’m talking about.
“And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34.)
While we say we forgive but can’t forget, our subconscious behavior will betray us every time. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but sometime in the future, all will come out. It may come out in a sudden burst of temper or outrage against the person we had supposedly forgiven or a snub or whatever. We may not even know what caused our sudden behavior. But our bodies know.
What it all boils down to is this: Where there is no forgetting, there is no forgiveness. We can lie to ourselves to comfort our ego, but we can’t lie to our bodies. They remember everything.
If we say we forgive, then we need to forget, as though the thing never happened. There is no other way.