Forgive then Forget or Forget so you don’t have to Forgive?

For those of you who don’t subscribe to the blog comments here’s

Green Speck‘s interesting comment on my last forgiveness post:

“But forgetting will strengthen the relationship more, don’t you think so?

Mmmmmm, I thought, Interesting question.  Which led me to a bigger question:  Can we ever truly forget?

The mind is a strange and wondrous place.  I believe that EVERYTHING, every thought, feeling , observation, experience the sum total of our life is stored.  Stored in the brain?  Stored in the soul?  Stored in Ashakic records?  Don’t know.

I believe that we can consciously forget small transgressions or hurts (mercifully the older we get the more we forget) but never do we consciously or unconsciously forget a deep wounding or repeated hurts from the same person/source.

“Trauma” memory is stored in the brain for easy retrieval. It is a survival mechanism to remember the growl of a bear so we aren’t eaten.  It’s not a survival mechanism to remember  stubbing our toe in a babbling brook.

Mmmmmm, I mused on.  Which led me to this:

What strengthens relationships is when the “transgressor” admits to his/her role, works on making amends and changes the hurtful behaviour.  This takes time – lots of time to – to do right behaviour over and over and over.  When the trust is broken it is never, in my experience, forgotten, nor should it be.

This is what I tell clients who have been hurt:

You can forgive them for being _______ (stupid, selfish, limited, deranged etc) but do not trust them until they’ve demonstrated trustworthy behaviour consistently for a long time.  

Trust is EARNED through trustworthy behaviour over time.  Ideally their words and behaviour should match.  If there’s a disconnect focus on the behaviour, not the words.  . .   Always the behavior.

Time and right behaviour strengthen relationships.  And don’t forget it!

(of course that’s just my opinion … what’s yours?)

3 comments on “Forgive then Forget or Forget so you don’t have to Forgive?

  1. I need to try to forgive because the continously retrieved memories are not good for my worldview, thinking processes, attitudes, etc.
    Often, I leave (or am left by) those who hurt me, so there is little opportunity to see if they demonstrate remorse. Their lack of contact (or really acknowleding my attempts/continuing the contact) is sometimes the demonstration of their remorse — for how they treated me, or I admit, how I treated them.
    Many of these relationships I thought were close, special and meaningful. Some of the hurt comes from finding out, for whatever reason, they are not (to the other people).
    So, for me, foregiveness is an exercise in finding myself, letting go (because I can’t forget as much as I’d like), and moving on. I have a bad memory for good things and a good memory for bad things.
    Perhaps this is a function, too, of my emotional and mental health; after so many hurts, I need to also recognize what were hurts caused mostly by the “unfeeling” or “overfeeling” person, were generated by me (I can set my self up for situations), and were not as I felt at the time. Otherwise, I will continue to judge my worthiness by the reactions/actions of others. I need to feel better about who I am, and forgiving helps me see that I am more than peoples’ opinions of me.
    I try to see the slights, the abandoments, the hurts, as part of a process; a pattern that I need to break. Or, I can’t give myself a break from the mobilus loop of painful memories, regrets, fears, and feels of self-(un)worthiness.
    But that’s just me. I have a very bruised pysche (sighkey: spelling) I need to help along to heal.


  2. Absolutely on dot.. I have stopped trusting.. and better..I have moved away… all the more difficult to forget those Judy who first keet hurting you and then apply balm to give relief..

    I realised that a person never forgives you for the mistakes he makes to you..



    • Judy and Ramesh….the last sentence Ramesh said…YES! I have found people will often blame you for what they did to you. So they are looking for you to ask forgiveness when you did nothing wrong.

      I have stopped worrying so much about it. The good people in my life who have proven they are trust worthy have my trust. The people who have continually hurt me, do not. It’s as simple as that. As much as I used to try to make it better, or different. I am in self preservation mode now, and I will not trust people who do not earn it.

      I shouldn’t say that exactly. I do have a certain amount of trust with new friends, but the relationship has to keep moving forward, and the deeper trust earned. I used to trust way too easily.

      I used to believe that forgiveness was more for the one forgiving, to get this burden off of them, but I found I simply could not forgive people who would not acknowledge what they have done, or people who continue to have the same behaviors toward me.
      I’ve found that forgiving when it’s not merited is not good for me, or my relationships.

      thank you for talking about this subject. I’ve needed to remember this lately, and validation thatl I’m not doing the wrong thing.



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