The Difference Between Forgiving and Forgetting

When someone does you wrong and you’re asking friends or family for advice, it’s typical for at least one person to say, “Forgive and forget.” From my personal experience, neither of these two things are easy, and sometimes I wonder if they’re even possible.

I had a conversation with a friend last night about this topic. He is having a hard time forgetting his ex after years of being misused and a severe lack of trust. This thinking of her haunts him sometimes and he questioned whether or not he was “normal” in feeling this way, especially because he understands that he deserves a better relationship.

This hit home, because this thought crosses my mind from time to time. I had planned my entire life with a person just to have my heart broken and my future shattered, and yet seeing him and hearing his name still sometimes brings pain. I want to forget how he hurt me, I want to forget what he meant to me, I want to forget him. But not until now have I really considered that I might need to forgive him before I can succeed in forgetting.

To me, I don’t think we can ever truly forget, but we can forgive. Forgiveness is key in dimming the memories and honestly being able to move on with your life. Without consciously making the decision to forgive someone’s actions or words, those negative feelings we have every time that person is brought up will keep coming back. However, granting forgiveness is a very difficult thing to do in terms of severe harm that was caused. When we’re hurt by another person, our initial reaction is to want to forget the situation ever happened and move on with our life. But, just as Freud once stated, no matter how much we try to forget the greatest wrongs committed against us, it is physiologically impossible. Memories can be repressed, Freud suggested, only to be revived by similar emotional experiences or internal recognition.

So, since it is literally impossible to forget such severe wrongs done to us, how do we move on? The answer: forgive.

Forgiveness is not easy, though, and is often approached in the wrong manner. You cannot work to forgive someone with the entire motive of wanting to forget them completely and move forward. Instead, you have to constantly work towards forgiveness with the intent of actually forgiving that person. Otherwise you will always be haunted by the horrible situations and events that have come to define and shape you into the person you are today.

I am working on this as well. I have people from my past I want to forgive, and I have caught myself trying to forgive them for the sole purpose of forgetting them. I’ve come to realize (with some help of Freud, my friends, and my family) that the forgetting part really won’t happen. The memories will dim, in time, but they will not go away completely. So I’m working on forgiveness. How, you might ask? I really have no easy answer for you, other than time and intention to live with a hope of one day practicing forgiveness for all those who may have harmed me in the past and who will hurt me in the future.

With this thought, I can also pray that if/when I hurt someone, they may also work towards forgiving me in a similar way.

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6 thoughts on “The Difference Between Forgiving and Forgetting

  1. When I was a kid my sister and I were like warring factions. Always fighting and when we did something that would do that was so bad my mother was brought into it.. she asked one to ask for forgiveness. When the other would say no… yes we were hard core like that , she would tell us God forgives us and puts our sins into the sea of frogetfulness. I know its hard, I am not God or near him like that .. but I try to think of that and try to move on but I still allow my self to feel hurt for a time because I am human but I try to move on and actively forgive someone.

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  2. You are right.I just follow the “Out of Sight,Out of mind” philosophy.I keep diverting my mind to other things.However,there are times,when I feel pain like someone inserted a knife into my heart when I think about the ones who caused me hurt.I think the trick that most “strong people” do is that they pretend that they are over it completely.Thank you for being honest.

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  3. Hey! I understand this is sort of off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does building a well-established blog like yours take a large amount of work?
    I am brand new to running a blog but I do write in my journal on a daily basis.
    I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my personal experience
    and views online. Please let me know if you have any kind of
    ideas or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

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    1. Hi there, Howard. Thanks for taking the time to peek at Peonies ‘n Mint! It is so exciting to meet new people through blogging! I love designing websites, so I took my time with this design. However, I use WordPress.com and there are a ton of free templates available for the ease of your use. If you go this route, the most time-consuming part of blogging for you would be what you write. This can be as difficult as you choose, obviously. My only tip as a new blogger is to have fun with what you do! I’ve met some great people through blogging and it’s all because I stuck to my own opinions and ideas, had fun, and caught the interest of some other wonderful people. Best of luck!!

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