Should You Always Forgive and Forget?

forgive, forget, mistakes

Your homework was tasty, but he’s really sorry. | Source: Shutterstock

“To err is human; to forgive, divine,” said some dude named Alexander Pope a few centuries ago, and those are words a lot of people still live by. Sometimes, though, we have trouble forgiving OR forgetting, and that makes some people feel guilty. Do we HAVE to forgive and forget? I’m honestly not so sure.

In my view, I think we have to think about why the other person did what they did. Like, the time my friend forgot to wish me a happy birthday. Her aunt had died the day before, so I was bummed, but totally not mad at her. She had way more important stuff going on. That’s a time I was able to completely forgive and forget.

What about forgiving and not forgetting? I guess I’ve done that, too, but it seems silly when I think about it. I mean, if I’m not hurt really by what happened, why hang onto those negative feelings? Maybe because I think that friend of mine who flaked on driving me to the party might do it again? Not sure, but it can be hard to forget sometimes.

forgive, forget, mistakes

It’s up to you if you feel like forgiving. | Source: Shutterstock

Then there are the things I–personally–don’t think should be forgiven. The first thing that comes to mind is a girl who was talking to me about her dad. She told me that her father had molested her a few years earlier. She said she felt like she was supposed to forgive him, because, well, that’s what she should do. I asked her if she thought she really could forgive, or if he even deserved forgiveness. Some people do forgive those who have done horrible things, and if it works for them (or you), then that’s wonderful. But it shouldn’t be something you do because you feel like you have to, or you feel guilty not doing it. You’ve already been hurt by this person once!

It’s also important to make a distinction between “not forgiving” and “staying angry.” Not forgiving is your acknowledging that the bad thing happened, but staying really angry will just keep you from moving on and hurt you worse in the long run.

Basically, my rule of thumb is that if it’s something that won’t affect me in a week or even a month, I think I can forgive and forget (although I’ll still be annoyed with anyone who takes my favorite flavor donut before I can get to it!). If it’s something that’ll still be affecting me six years from now? Well, that might be another story.

Do you always forgive and forget? Are there things you just can’t forgive? What do you think about my rule of thumb? Tell me in the comments!

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  • Keats

    My best friend told me that i am overbearing, smothering and dramatic. He has never said anything like this before and it was totally out of the blue /: Than i told him i didnt like the way he treated me and has no right to criticize me in any way. he told me it was a huge over reaction. i read and ignored to ‘stop smothering’ him. Do i forgive? forget? or both.