Forgive and Forget

The old maxim of ‘Forgive and Forget’ is now being replaced with a warning to ‘Forgive, but never Forget’. From an individual point of view, the new saying makes sense. You still forgive so that you do not have to live with feelings of bitterness inside of you. However, you do not forget so that you can guard yourself against any future wrongdoings from the same or other people. However, from a relational and family point of view, this new adage can be damaging.

Why is it important to forget?

Forgive and Forget

Let us say that a family member wrongs you in some way. As long as the wrongdoing remains in your mind, you will be apprehensive of that person. You become more sparing in your giving of trust to that person as your mind convinces you that it will only end in hurt. Any following wrongdoing, even if small, confirms and amplifies your feelings as it is added on to the memories of past wrongdoings.

These feelings will rarely go unnoticed by your family member. If their wrongdoing is not forgotten, they would constantly feel like they are walking a tight line, where the smallest misstep could trigger a severe reaction. Yes, it would mean that they are more apprehensive of making mistakes against you in the future, but is hardly the foundation for an open, loving relationship. In the long term, as the record of wrongs inevitably grows longer and puts increasing strain on the relationship, the relationship might break.

Three tips on ‘forgetting’:

+ Do not forgive ‘lightly’
You might think you are doing your family member a favour by just forgiving them without making a fuss over the wrong that was committed. However, the key to forgetting is to make sure the issue is dealt with. If it isn’t, you will quite rightly expect it to happen again and hence your mind will not be able to let it go. Approach the person who has wronged you and make your feelings known. Explain the fault you see on their side. This has to be done tactfully. It is essential to understand first the factors which caused them to behave the way they did. These factors are not excuses for their behaviour, but reveal the root cause of the behaviour.

+ Remember that you are not perfect either
Another axiom comes to mind here: Do unto others that which you have them do to you. It is a rule that is helpful in many situations, including this one. Personally, I find it a lot easier to forgive others and forget their wrongdoings is because I have experienced the great liberating feeling of having my own wrongdoings forgiven and remembered no more.

+ Positive emotion trumps negative emotion
I mentioned earlier that keeping tabs on others mistakes can make the family member who wronged you more apprehensive about wronging you in the future. However, I believe that forgiving and forgetting can lead to more lasting change. In the first case, fear is the motivating factor behind the person adjusting their behaviour, in the second, it is a feeling of gratitude which drives the change. As quoted from the movie Inception, ‘positive emotion trumps negative emotions every time’.

Abraham is an undergraduate who dreamed of playing professional football when he was 5 (and actually still does). While his love for football occupies a large part of his heart, the remaining portion is shared between his passion for photographing the wonders of God’s creation and love for his family.


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