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What Does “Forgive and Forget” Even Mean?

Since I was a child, the phrase “forgive and forget” has baffled me.

Forgetting is difficult for me; I’m wired to remember things, and that is, in fact, part of what makes me good at what I do. If a character enters a restaurant wearing a weave, and halfway through the meal she’s playing with her braids, it’s my job to remember. If the writer tells us the name of the church is Shepherdhill Church I won’t forget that, so when it shows up later on in the book as Shepherdfield Church, I’m going to catch it.

Unfortunately, this also means that I remember details of quarrels from months ago; what was said, what was done, where we were… much to the chagrin of my husband and my friends. Now, can you imagine how it feels every time someone insinuates that I have not truly forgiven because I have not forgotten?

In long-term relationships, there will be a lot to forgive. That’s just the way life is. People will offend you, you will offend people, and you just have to be ready to give and receive forgiveness as often as it is required. What you really have no control over, is forgetting. How does one deliberately forget something? The more you actively try to forget, the more you’re focusing on it! How then can people be told to “forgive and forget”? I wonder who came up with the phrase and how it has gained so much popularity.

I think it is ridiculous to tie forgiveness to forgetting. The fact that I remember, does not mean I hold a grudge. In fact, unless a person has some form of dementia, forgetting all the things that one has forgiven cannot be expected. Dare I say that the fact that I remember, and still feel no ill-will towards you, is actually proof of genuine forgiveness?

When you forgive someone, you make a decision to move past the hurt, and let it go. It takes time for our emotions to catch up with our decisions, but eventually, that happens. Forgetting the hurt is not automatic; rather, it is a process that must be allowed time to happen. Forgetting the event itself? That may never even happen.

So, by all means, I will make my decision to forgive a person who offends me, and if possible, I will let them know about it. Then I will go about my business and refuse to rehash or dwell on the issue. In time, the hurt will fade. As for insisting that I forget about what happened to prove that I have truly forgiven? Miss me with that.

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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    5th October 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Ditto! ‘I have forgiven you for all your wrongs, this does not require me to forget the list of your wrongdoing’.
    Thank you for the enlightenment

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