Forgive and forget - why is it so hard?

Forgive and forget – why is it so hard and what can you do about it?

by Lindsay on October 11, 2012

in Inspiration, Kindness, Personal Growth, Relationships

Last weekend, someone I love very much said something hurtful to me. At first it stung – my first reaction was to get defensive and try to shake it off. But as the words settled into my heart, it felt like a bullet had gone straight through it. I sat with the words, like dead weights in my chest, fighting an inner battle to just let them go. But that pushing seemed to only make the pain increase. Yes, her words were hurtful and thoughtless but then I thought, “If anyone else had said this, I would’ve considered them to be a jerk and moved on.”

I realized: when you’re wronged by someone you love so much, it just seems to hurt twice as much. Anyone who has ever had their heart broken knows that first hand.

After a discussion and hugs, I forgave my friend. I’m not perfect – I’ve hurt her before, too.  I think she was just as relieved as me when the forgiveness wormed its way into my heart. They say forgiveness isn’t for the offender, and that’s true. I’ve forgiven people I have no interest in speaking to ever again for one reason or another. I do that forgiving more for myself than them. But when the other person loves you just as much as you love them, forgiveness is equally freeing for that person, too.

Forgiveness and freedom are two words that go hand in hand, aren’t they?

Think of someone who has wronged you or hurt you deeply. Have you forgiven them for their mistake?  Or are you hanging on to the hurt, letting it weigh you down in one way or another? Are there people you’re avoiding or have written out of your life so you don’t have to deal with the emotions that come with having them around?  Are there places that you refuse to go to for fear of running into someone you don’t want to see?

Doesn’t that feel like an emotional prison?

If you allow yourself to really forgive – imagine just how freeing that would be. Are you really willing to hang on to something and let it control your happiness, your life experiences and even where you go to have fun/grocery shop/whine with friends?

“Forgive and forget” is something we hear all the time. The trouble is, most of us don’t know how to do it. There’s no playbook for forgiveness, no manual for getting past betrayals, disappointments, and hurts.

I love Judith Orloff’s scenarios for forgiveness & how to do it:

  • A good friend acts inconsiderately when she’s having a bad day. Remember, nobody’s perfect. You may want to let the incident slide. If you do mention it, don’t make this one-time slight into a big deal. Give your friend a break — forgive the lapse.
  • A coworker takes credit for your ideas. Do damage control — whether it means mentioning this situation to the coworker, your boss or Human Resources. And don’t trust her with ideas in the future. However, try to forgive the coworker who has to stoop so low as to steal from you.
  • Your mother-in-law is needy or demanding. Keep setting kind, but firm boundaries so over time you can reach palatable compromises. But also have mercy on the insecurities beneath her neediness and demands — perhaps she experiences fear of being alone, of aging, of being excluded from the family or of not being heard. This will soften your response to her.
  • You suffered childhood abuse. The healing process of recovering from abuse requires enormous compassion for yourself and is facilitated by support from other abuse survivors, family, friends or a therapist. Still, if you feel ready to work towards forgiveness of an abuser, it might require seeing the brokenness and suffering that would make the person want to commit such harm. This is a huge stretch of compassion, but could possibly be the path to freedom.

No one ever gets to the end of their life and thinks, “I wish I stayed angry longer.” They generally say one of three things: “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” or “I love you.”

How do you forgive? What are some of the steps you take or what do you think in order to reach that point of forgiveness? Please share your thoughts with me and other readers!

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Anne October 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Lindsay –

Forgiveness is hard to practice-easy to teach; probably because we all want to be forgiven for whatever we did or whatever misstep we took! I remember my father being a man who never asked for forgiveness. I suppose he felt it was something that was a barrier for expressing true feelings. He spoke his truth without worrying about being forgiven or forgiving others.

I, however, am not my father’s child that way. Forgiveness – the mental energy it takes to think something through enough to see it as it is – beyond hurt or embarrassment- is so hard! I still work at it; it is an organic sort of process, I think.

Lately my husband said something to me that got my shackles up and flat out left me wondering who the hell he thought he was – not just talking to me that way, but who he was in general… Had an alien swallowed him and spoken to me instead?! It took two days to think past the hurt and anger to see my wounded pride – to step away from it enough to talk it through.

We had an enlightening conversation. I have never been so forthright and truthful (southern woman+truthful=no-no) and I learned forgiveness is empowering, too, and we could all use some empowerment!

So, long way round this, is to say forgiveness is probably different each time we have to employ it. Chewing on it can be bitter or sour but we are better for it. Like Brussels sprouts and beets, right?!

Lindsay October 12, 2012 at 9:50 am

Anne I love your comments! Yes, just like brussel sprouts and beets! You know how we get more of a taste for these things as we age? Does that mean forgiveness becomes easier as we age? That sure would be nice!

As for your hubby saying something to you that really threw you off…I think there is something in the air. Almost EVERYONE I know with a significant other has had a blow-out with them for one reason or another in the past couple weeks. Perhaps something astrological is going on.

I wonder what made your father so averse to forgiveness? Maybe it was a matter of pride.

Karly October 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

What a great post! I know *exactly* what you mean about being hurt by someone you love. When I have to deal with rude people at work everyday, it rolls off of me. I’ve been called every name in the book- yet I can stand there, hold my ground and be okay with it. However, when it’s someone I love and care about and they’ve said or done something to hurt me, it stings me incredibly hard (it doesn’t help that I over think everything, either). It really sucks sometimes being a highly sensitive person.

I often have trouble forgiving people. Sometimes it’ll happen almost instantly, sometimes it takes years, depending on the degree of what was done. I’ve pretty much forgiven everyone over the years… this only came to be after I worked on myself and came to be happy with myself. I’m not sure if that makes sense? But what I do know is that some things, I will *never* forget. Unfortunately, I forgive people, but still hold that grudge and will never let them forget what they did either. I still have work to do in that department!

Lindsay October 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

Hi Karly,

You are definitely not alone in your struggles to forgive. I think this is such a HUGE topic because so many of us (maybe all of us) have struggled with it in some way.

You’ve been called names at work?! Good grief! You must have the patience of a saint.

Jennifer Flint ~ The Aura Reader October 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Great post, Lindsay! I don’t have anybody I need to forgive, lucky for me, but I wouldn’t forgive myself for not signing up for your event, so I’m gonna. Hope there’s a spot left! 🙂

Lindsay October 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

So glad to have you joining us m’dear! And no one to forgive? That is very fortunate! 🙂 October 11, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Very nice Lindsay…. want to share the following if I may….


Before we can live together in an eternal community, we must be assured that there is nothing within us or others that might escalate or evolve into problems in the future. After all it would not be paradise if we continue to bring up all of our old issues among one another.

When we leave the earth…we go through our life review. We are encouraged to seek our own justice and atonement by going to the parties we have hurt in our lives and asking them to tell us what they want from us in order to make amends. People out there, Solamenta will await the arrival of those on earth that they have committed transgressions against… if they are not already out there in order to make their amends; provided that is, if they are inclined to do so. For example… it’s a humiliating experience for a man to go to his best friend from the earth and confess to him that he had an affair with his wife, stole something from him, cheated him, talked behind his back etc. This is one of the reasons that many wives and husbands don’t continue their relationships out there.

Forgiveness is a concept, granted it is a sterile and morose concept but nevertheless, it has flourished in spite of the fact there is little if any strength behind the words “I forgive you”. These words mean in essence, let’s forget about it. Forgiveness is a concept that has outlived its time!

Instead, let’s consider a more logical approach to resolving our differences….

Hated enemies who find themselves fighting on the same side, become brothers on the battlefield because they are necessary for each other’s survival. When we understand from a logical perspective that you and I are necessary for each other’s eternal survival, we no longer need to say the words, “I forgive you,” but rather, “I understand how badly we need each other”!

Lindsay October 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

The life review fascinates me! I can imagine I’m going to be spending a LONG time there asking for forgiveness, etc…

I think sometimes there IS real power behind the words “I forgive you”, even in our physical bodies. It means so much to me when I hear those words muttered to me, I know that much. But I do understand and like the notion of saying, “I understand how badly we need each other”! too! Makes so much sense!

Thank you for sharing your link with us!

Anne October 13, 2012 at 11:31 am

Pride, yes. Also probably a sense of ‘nothing ventured,nothing gained’…forgiveness opens us up and makes us vulnerable. My dad was of a generation and mindset where that meant ‘weak’. Funny – I think forgiveness makes us all stronger, not weaker. (that seems obvious!)

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