If you “forgive, but never forget” – can you ever truly move on?

January 31, 2011 · Posted in Social Interactions 

If you “forgive, but never forget” – can you ever truly move on?
By Catherine

We have all heard the saying, “Forgive, but never forget.” I know I heard the mantra numerous times from my mother after a boyfriend (or two) broke my little, high school heart. I suppose this was meant to be a compromise between taking the higher road and always remembering so we can learn from past mistakes. Ultimately, we are to be better people for it. However, a twisted paradox ends up forming that leaves ourselves and our relationships changed forever. Past wrongdoings will always be tucked away in the back of your mind.

Now, I am not saying it is impossible to do so. But, forgiveness is a tough thing. Can any of us truly say we have forgiven everyone who hurt us 100%? Some people are very easy to forgive – like a sister or brother who takes your clothes without asking. For others, we have to find the strength to forgive for the most unthinkable transgressions – like the infidelity of a partner or spouse.

And even if you do decide to forgive your loved one, would it really be possible to put the past out of your mind and move on with the relationship? Could the relationship ever be made whole and safe again?

Sure, you can make replacement piers and towers out of all the “I’m sorry” and “I will make this up to you” apologies to keep the cables aloft. But, the anchors, the most important parts of any bridge – trust and honesty – are forever shattered.

For me, this is one bridge that can never be completely mended.

I can forgive the person who hurt me. Being angry at him or her will only foster hatred and wasted energy.

I just pray for them…

I haven’t been to church since I don’t remember when
Things were going great ’til they fell apart again
So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do
He said you can’t go hating others who have done wrong to you.
Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn.
Let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them.

I pray your brakes go out running down a hill
I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you’re flying high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are honey, I pray for you

I’m really glad I found my way to church
‘Cause I’m already feeling better and I thank God for the words.
Yeah I’m going take the high road,
And do what the preacher told me to do,
You keep messing up and I’ll keep praying for you.

I pray your tire blows out at 110.
I pray you pass out drunk with your best friend and wake up with his and her tattoos.

I pray your brakes go out running down a hill.
I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to.
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you’re flying high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are, near or far, in your house or in your car,
wherever you are honey, I pray for you.
I pray for you

“I Pray For You” – Jaron and The Long Road to Love

7 Responses to “If you “forgive, but never forget” – can you ever truly move on?”

  1. Arsham Mirshah on February 1st, 2011 9:27 am

    I couldn't agree more – it is impossible to forget. Trust is easily broken and very difficult (if not impossible) to repair.

    Forgiving someone is relatively easy in most scenarios – but to honestly completely forget and act as though that act NEVER happened.. that just doesn't happen.

  2. Josh Boren on July 22nd, 2011 12:01 am

    I couldn't disagree more – 😉

    Forgiving someone means being able to forget a past transgression. Forgiving someone, truly forgiving them, means never holding the act over their head or bringing it up in an argument. Quite simply it means never letting the wrong-doing affect your judgement from the point of forgiveness forward. However, I take the act of forgetting quite subjectively because one's ability to remove it from your opinions may require differing "degrees" of action.

    For example: My imaginary best friend's name is Fred. Fred and I are hang'n out and he asks to borrow fifty dollars. I loan it to him on the condition that he pay me back in 7 days. A week goes by and Fred doesn't show up to my house. I call him, no answer, and then leave a voice mail. Three more days go by, ten since I loaned it to him, and Fred shows up. He pays me back and then asks for my forgiveness. Eventually, I get around to forgiving Fred and we start hanging out again. A month later Fred asks to borrow fifty dollars. Would I have truly forgiven Fred if I did not loan him fifty dollars because of the previous incident?

    **Please note that in the example above, I intentionally left out many details (What was Fred's reason for being late. How much does 50 dollars represent to my income, etc) While those are definitely a consideration in specific situations I am hoping to simply draw focus on what forgiveness looks like. **

    The subjectivity circles around what actions you must take to forgive someone in a certain situation. If you are unable to completely fulfill those actions, then you will not have forgiven someone. Are there differing degrees of forgiveness? Not a question I'm asking myself right now, simply the heart of your debate. Does forgiveness require forgetting. Yes, but forgetting doesn't mean you have to have your mind wiped.

  3. Arsham Mirshah on July 22nd, 2011 9:15 am

    Yeah Josh, even though I agree'd with the concept — I have to agree w/ you because you're a realist.

    I was agreeing with the optimistic view — but that is unfortunately impossible (I think). The human brain is just not capable of FORGETTING completely, right?

    And if that's true, then it's nearly impossible not to use history to impact your decisions… it's funny, I've been experiencing this more and more these day…

    I guess it has to do with the older you get, the more memory you have, who knows… 🙂

  4. Pat on November 17th, 2011 9:00 am

    I do believe anyone can forgive but the forgetting part is marginal. Think of your personal computer and how you erase the items you wish to delete but they are permanently in the hard drive. That is what happens in the human brain–you forgive but the hurt is forever left in your mind. So as things arise in your life, the hurt will appear again and again…but, it is how you deal with that hurt that makes the difference.

  5. Pheebs on August 31st, 2012 5:12 am

    I believe if you cant learn to forget like Josh said previous incidences will be forever held over the offending persons head, and in any relationship it is never good to keep score. If you cannot let go of the hurt it will forever damage the relationship. Nobody is perfect and some of us make more mistakes than others , it doesnt mean we are bad people, it just means some people naturally always make the wrong decision. I always used to forgive and not forget and it breed negativity which had a knock on effect to my whole life and caused me to look at the whole world wrong. I lost alot of people in my life because of it, learn to forgive and forget its the only healthy thing to do.

  6. JFT on November 26th, 2012 2:13 pm

    To forget means that no learning has taken place.
    To forgive someone means their transgressions will not be used against them in the future. I forgive the girl who never paid me back. She asks again I don't hem and haw about it, I just say "No, sorry I can't do it."
    Forgiving my transgressors does NOT mean I am rendered helpless to practice free will and make good educated decisions based on past experience.
    I can forgive this girl, and STILL use wise judgment based on that education/experience.
    If I had forgotten the exchange along with granting forgiveness, I would repeat the same behavior…and that's the way it is done on a personal level…we do the same things over and over again until we "learn" the lesson and become better people because of the LESSONS LEARNED…not because I forgot everything that ever hurt me.

  7. Patty on March 4th, 2013 8:09 am

    It is possible to forget if you have truly forgiven. Henry Ward Beecher said ever so long ago,

    " 'I can forgive, but I cannot forget', is only another way of saying, 'I will not forgive'. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note torn in two and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one."

    Further, if you will pray beneficial prayers for the one you feel has betrayed your trust, you can absolutely forget about it. Treat those bad feelings like temptations and resist the devil's attack.

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