You have, no doubt, been told at some point in your life that it is best to “forgive and forget”. That sounds great in theory, but how do you actually “forget” the harm that has been done to you? Especially if it is a big hurt – painful and personal? The real question we are often asking ourselves is not “How do I forgive and forget?” We are really asking “How do I move on from here?”
Forgiveness Is About You
We often view forgiveness as something that we extend to another person who has wronged us as a form of mercy. Yes, forgiving someone may go a long way for them in relieving the regret they feel and may even strengthen your relationship moving forward. But the truth is, whether or not we choose to forgive someone most likely will not have a huge impact on the rest of their life. Forgiveness is really about you choosing to let go of painful and toxic resentment, rather than carrying it around with you. I once heard it said that “Holding onto resentment is like allowing someone to take up space in your heart rent-free”. Withholding forgiveness and continuing to carry that grudge around will do the most harm to YOU; not the person you’re refusing to forgive. When we exercise forgiveness, we are healing our own hurts.
Forgetting Isn’t Likely
Once you have decided to let go of resentment and forgive, it is not likely that you will suddenly forget that it ever happened. We are just not wired that way. Just because you choose to forgive does not mean the memory won’t still be painful. I think the toughest part of forgiveness is when the wound is so deep that you have to forgive all over again every day – sometimes multiple times a day. Forgiveness is a conscious choice that we make, but sometimes we have to keep making that choice. You cannot decide to forgive someone today but then bring it up or hold it over their head again next time they upset you – that’s not fighting fair and it’s not true forgiveness. You have to exercise forgiveness every time you remember. It’s the only way to truly work through it.
Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean That You Stay
Again, forgiveness is about you choosing to let go of resentment, and so it may OR may not include continuing in a relationship with that person. You can choose to forgive someone and still decide to discontinue spending time or interacting with them. Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from people who have hurt us time and again in order to protect ourselves. You can choose to forgive and also choose to set boundaries or “love from afar” rather than staying in a position where you may be hurt again. It is your choice!
Hurts and wounds that we allow to grow into grudge and resentment only hurt you. Forgiveness is a process, a painful one even, but it’s a process that can lead to freedom and peace.