Forgive not Forget
“Forgiveness is not about forgetting – it is about letting go- so you can move on – having learned from your experience.”
Forgive and Forget. Everybody has heard the words; they are ingrained often from childhood when we fought with siblings or friends. “Now all hold hands and make up!”, and usually, we did and went on with our games.
Adult life is much more complex than that. To forgive someone for really hurting you, especially if they have professed to love you can feel almost impossible. How can you forgive someone for destroying your confidence, taking away your security both physical and emotional, isolating you from family and friends or impacting the upbringing of your children – the list goes on. How do you forgive them for that?
Worse still is the idea that if someone apologises that we have to forgive them. The person doing the apologising often believes that the words are enough, especially as most people struggle to admit fault and say them. So they believe that are doing this tremendous thing saying sorry, and we get caught up in the guilt that we didn’t accept the apology. Or worse still feel compelled to repress our feelings and behave as if everything is ok.
I think people should understand that when they have done the wrong thing that they might have to apologise more than once and wait until the person they have hurt is ready to accept. However, I doubt that concept will become a regular reality, simply because as individuals we find it so difficult to tune into other people, we are often too caught up in our own stuff.
The problem isn’t the apology or the forgiveness but the impact as the forgiver we perceive our acceptance of an apology will create. If someone has hurt us very badly, we don’t want to forgive them too easily. We want them to understand the impact their actions have had on us, and so withholding acceptance is like our last little bit of control over what has happened to us. We can feel like if we forgive too easily we let the other person off the hook or we set ourselves up to be hurt again.
Forgiving is complex and not something you should rush. It is a complex skill not just about the other person but also about ourselves. Being able to forgive someone is important in terms of being able to clear the air and move on, or even to allow a relationship with someone we care about to grow. The important thing to remember is it is not the forgiveness itself but how we forgive that is important.
You forgive the other person, but you don’t forget what they have done. You reflect on what has happened, learn from it, and set up new boundaries to protect yourself from being hurt. It doesn’t guarantee that person won’t hurt you again, but what it does do is it helps to make sure you won’t be hurt in the same way again. When you forgive someone you express how you are feeling; you use their apology as an opportunity for conversation to set new expectations for the relationship, build trust and grow. Processing your forgiving in this way means that if someone goes on to hurt you in the same ways again, you can make decisions about their role in your life.
Forgiving and not forgetting is about you and here is why
When we process forgiving but not forgetting we learn from painful experiences, emotional processing is important, but understanding what has happened and why protects us. You learn about your triggers, and sensitivities and how to manage yourself when someone hurts you that you care about. It may be that you decide to forgive someone but not allow them to continue to be in your life. Conflict is inevitable in life, but processing forgiveness and making the commitment not to forget helps you to strengthen yourself for the the future.
When you forgive and forget, it is important to move on. Forgiving but not forgetting does not mean that we tell someone we have forgiven them, but continue to remind them of what happened, or use the event as fuel or a defence in an argument. That is abusive. If you feel as though you are not ready to let go of what has happened then you are not ready to forgive. To truly forgive someone in a healthy way is to allow them to have the chance to change and show us who they really can be. If you keep revisiting what they have done you are not allowing the relationship you have with that person to progress into a fresh start, you are living in the past, and you are not moving on from the event, both for yourself and the other person.
Forgiving is a way of strengthening your relationships because it allows a trust picture to form. The person who has hurt you offers an apology, and when you are ready you accept and give forgiveness. In healthy forgiveness, a discussion happens about the event and a new way forward. When the relationship moves forward, there is trust that the person will not hurt you again and there is trust your forgiveness is genuine. Over time, without more hurtful events the relationship can grow, and a greater bond between two people can form.
Forgiving is really important to your emotional health because when you refuse to forgive someone, you hold onto all the anger and bitterness that persons actions have created within you. The anger you feel can destroy you from the inside out. Anger is a secondary emotion that can stop you from feeling all the emotions that are deep within you and important for you to be aware of for your own personal growth. When anger builds up inside you. It can make you cranky, and bitter; it can even affect you physically as your body takes up the tension inside you. We can get caught up in deciding whether we will forgive someone based on whether they deserve it. This is where we can get too focussed on the other person and not enough on forgiving for ourselves and letting go of the destructive emotions inside us.
Forgiveness is about you and not the other person, and it is a skill to master forgiving but not forgetting. Being in touch with yourself, speaking your truth and being in your integrity with pure motives requires forgiveness of others. You forgive for you, not the other person; you don’t keep bringing the transgressing back into the relationship, but you don’t forget either. You revise your boundaries to keep yourself safe, and you learn valuable life lessons that protect you and make you stronger.
I empower women to make educated relationship choices, rather than change for their partner.
Choose, Don’t Change
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