Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Forgive and Forget

I really thought that I had forgiven her but lately I am less sure. I notice that I still get upset when those memories become the topic of a conversation. The thought of what she did to me still causes anger. I try hard avoiding this topic. Now I wonder whether perhaps I have been confusing forgetting and forgiving. How do you really know when you have forgiven somebody??

To me it is inconceivable to act as if things are normal now. I have no appetite to talk to her as I know very well that this would not benefit my emotional well-being. Avoiding seeing or meeting her is a valid option but not a good one – to me. That would – again – give her control over my life and that is no option – to me. Basically, there is now a status quo of “live and let live”.

I am confused as I did “move on” and moving on in life is really hard without forgiveness – perhaps even impossible. Nevertheless, I do feel this anger flaring up when I am reminded of my past with her. Obviously, forgiving does not imply that you are erasing memories – permanently forgetting is not an option to anyone. Ultimately, my anger is the confusing part. Anger is negative emotion. Forgiveness should imply positive – or a lack of – emotion – shouldn’t it?

The topic of Forgiveness came to my mind again following last Friday’s conversation with my brother and a recent article in Greater Good, called the Eight keys to Forgiveness by Robert Enright. Reading these 8 keys to Forgiveness did not give rise to a feeling that I have omitted a step in my forgiveness towards her. So, what is the relationship between forgiving and forgetting?

When you have forgiven someone, then, it’s valuable also to forget the details of what they have done. But does that actually work? Does forgiveness allow you to forget those details? This question was explored in an interesting paper in the July 2014 issue of Psychological Science. The authors note that the study “represents the first empirical demonstration of a link between forgiveness and intentional forgetting.” (PsychologyToday-1, PsychologyToday-2)

The result of their research suggests that forgiveness may actually give people permission to forget—that is, when people are willing to forgive, they are willing to give up the details of an episode. But when they are unwilling to forgive, they keep those details around. Presumably, they will also re-experience those details negatively when they remember them in the future. (PT-1)

I am inclined to conclude that I’m willing to forgive but unwilling to forget although that combination is not mentioned in the free abstract that is available to me. I suppose that I am unwilling to forget, partly as I am unable to erase her out of my life, and partly as I remain suspicious about her future intentions. Hence, I am always on my guard. Latter may be good enough reason not to forget.

In essence, the phrase “Forgive and Forget” does make sense as the above mentioned study has demonstrated. I feel less worried now that my forgiveness would still be outstanding. It is not. Else I wouldn’t be able to move on in my life. And I do. Yet, my suspicion makes it impossible to forget.

“Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s what unites us. The trick is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens. Don’t let them take that from you.” Quote from

Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s book called Invincible

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up (1970) – artist, lyrics, Wiki


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