You've probably heard the phrase "forgive and forget" at some point, and honestly, it's pretty safe to say that it's easier said than done. But really, what does it mean to forgive and forget? Does it mean you no longer have any built-up resentment toward someone who hurt you? Does it mean you can go on with your life without ever thinking about what happened again? Forgiving and forgetting can be a difficult thing to do, but understanding what it really means is the first step to accomplishing forgiveness and moving on. When it feels like someone has betrayed you and done something that may seem unforgivable, it can be extra tricky to forgive and forget, but guess what? According to the experts I spoke to, it is possible. Hard, yes, but possible all the same.
In most situations, it may be easier to forgive than to forget, though neither one is really a simple task. "To forgive and forget means you've finally made peace with the offense that's occurred and have allowed yourself to move forward," bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter tells Elite Daily. "To truly forgive means you understand the human condition and can accept that all humans possess both positive and negative qualities." Life coach Nina Rubin echoes Winter's explanation about what forgiving and forgetting really means. "This means to accept what has happened, move forward, and not hold a dangling carrot of resentment over someone’s head," Rubin tells Elite Daily.
To truly be able to forgive someone, it's helpful to understand the difference between forgiving and forgetting, and how each can benefit you. "The forgiveness aspect of this phrase signifies that you're willing to understand that all humans are imperfect; having moments of selfishness, vindictiveness, and cruelty," Winter says. "To 'forget' is an entirely different story. In truth, the offense is never fully forgotten. Emotional, physical, or economic cruelty doesn't get erased. However, we can give ourselves the personal freedom to liberate ourselves from the continual remembrance of the offense." By choosing not to dwell on whatever (or whoever) it is you're trying to forgive and forget, you allow yourself to fully move past it more easily.
While you may prefer to withhold your forgiveness and not forget the offense — whether it be because you're still hurting or you're over it but don't care to make amends — it can actually do you more harm than good. "Holding onto anger and resentment doesn't hurt the other person," Winter points out. "It hurts us." She refers to forgiving someone as a gift to yourself. It's a way to escape all the negative emotions you're feeling, because you're allowing yourself to let go. "We no longer need to be imprisoned by the pain and anger of what has been done to us," she says. The same goes for forgetting. "Forgetting means we no longer torture ourselves by replaying the negative events of our lives."
If you can't seem to find it in yourself to forgive and forget someone who has done you wrong, that's OK. Don't pressure yourself to take a step you're not ready for yet. Everyone does things at their own pace. "You will move forward regardless," Rubin says. "Things change, and you face a new normal. It may take time, and you may be cautious. Be gentle with yourself. Try not to obsess over the details."
Think of the positives that come from moving on. Winter says, "when you begin to think of the personal benefits derived from forgiving and forgetting, the phrase takes on a much more empowering meaning." Amen to that.