Have you heard the phrase, “Forgive and forget”? It’s overused and often cliche. When you hear it, you may have to fight the urge to roll your eyes because this phrase is not realistic. It does not account for the dimensional emotions one may encounter in life and the various processes of healing that people may pursue.
My version of forgiving used to be forgetting. If someone or something offended me, I would dissociate and throw the experience into the deepest depths of my brain. Out of sight out of mind, right? However, not addressing the incidents that concerned me ultimately cultivated pain and despise. Although I thought I forgave, I actually didn’t. I would simply claim to “forgive and forget” in order to move past the incident. The longer I did not address these concerns, the worse my mental well-being became.
As a result, I proposed an altered version: forgive but never forget. This meant I could forgive someone or something while still holding onto the experience. However, this led me to use the saying as a defensive barrier, and I began to develop a petty perspective on life.
This was an odd balance. I learned to put myself first, but at what cost? I prioritized my mental health and emotions but at the expense of emotionally committing to others. I continued to forgive for convenience, but also would struggle to overcome the problems I faced. Through refusing to negate any conflict and hear out the other side, I resented myself. Only my thoughts and feelings were valid and the reasoning and intent behind the incident was insufficient.
Since then, through the trial and error of placing various levels of my value and trust in people, my definition of forgiveness has matured into a more stable and less overbearing outlook. I’ve learned that forgiveness is not for the convenience of the other person, but for oneself. Forgiveness takes time and requires a complete understanding of the experience from all perspectives. Understanding the entirety of the situation removes biases that encourage one to favor oneself. True forgiveness is achieved when one embraces the reality and the emotional baggage from the event. Emotions must be acknowledged in order to be dealt with. Forgiveness is only true when the remorse and pain from the incident is entirely bypassed.
Forgetting a situation provides the opportunity for recurring incidents to take place. Moreover, when forgetting becomes the norm, one risks devaluing oneself in the process. Forcing yourself to forget can make you stagnant and unable to grow and develop as a person. Ultimately, forgiving but never forgetting is the most productive way to nurture genuine healing while upholding yourself worth.