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Forgive and Forget – Is it possible?

forgive and forget vidya sury

Forgive and Forget – Is it possible?

I’ve been thinking about the “forgive and forget” advice my Mom used to constantly gave me. I’ll tell you why. It is funny how life comes a full circle and people who treated you badly suddenly do an about turn and decide to be nice. Growing up as a “fatherless girl” as I was called, quite a few members of my family did not think my Mom and I deserved a normal life because we were not a “normal” family. Consequently we were shuffled around quite a bit. Thanks to our “tradition” one never talked back to the elders in the house, regardless of whether they were right or wrong. Oh yes, they were wrong. Often.

As I grew older, and developed a mind of my own, the rebel in me grew too. I would find it hard to keep quiet when they were unkind to my Mom. I always considered myself stronger emotionally but couldn’t bear to see my Mom hurt. And it would freak me out when my Mom smiled and said “forgive and forget”. I mean, how could she?

Bad enough forgiving is not easy – but forgetting? Forget it, was what I thought. It takes a huge heart to forgive AND forget and my Mom had it. Over the past four years, as we lost a few family members, I’ve been pondering over what she said and wonder if she didn’t have a point. I also realize that forgiveness has a lot of health benefits, as difficult as it might be to practice.

Why should you forgive and forget?

If nothing else, for freedom from stress. We know all about the myriad health problems stress can bring. With all that goes on in our lives these days, the last thing we want to do is harbor grudges and raise our blood pressure. Besides keeping your blood pressure in check, forgiveness also keeps your immune system working fine and avoids back pain, headaches and tummy aches. But the important thing is freedom from anger, resentment, a tendency to be down in the dumps each time a bad memory strikes and all sorts of negative thoughts.

You’re probably thinking, forgiving is tough. Who said forgiving is easy? As with all unpleasant things, the concept sounds great until we have to do it ourselves. Moreover, I personally don’t think forgetting is good for health. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is near-impossible for me to forget.

I’ve had this argument with my Mom so many times and she’d say, “Who is asking you to forget? All I am saying is remember in a kind way”. What she meant was remember, but without the cussing and meanness. I have to confess that cursing is highly therapeutic – but there’s a time and a place.

On the other hand, you pay the price for being unforgiving – it stresses you out emotionally and physically.

So, can you actually develop forgiveness?

Earlier this month, on Valentine’s Day, I posted a poster on Facebook that said, “Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it is probably shit”. I think the same applies for forgiveness. While you can’t force it, I know it is possible to nurture it by getting over the hostility and stop whining over the issue. It is good to see the positive side of things and segue into a good mood so that we can let go of the resentment that festers in us.

The key to forgiveness – gratitude

Gratitude is a great way to usher in the practice of forgiveness because it basically involves appreciating and acknowledging all the good things. It changes our perspective of situations and encourages us to forgive.

If the very thought of forgiving someone who hurt you makes you see red, you are obviously under great stress. We often tend to shoot the messenger in such situations. Managing the stress may soften the anger and resentment and helps us accept the situation. There are certain things we just can’t change in life, so it is easier to acknowledge them and move on.

forgive and forget vidya sury 1

Thanks Molly Hahn

Have you heard the saying “You are not your story”? I have. The painful truth is – even if it is a damn good story, you are not your story! Look at the situation from a different angle. Rather than feel the victim who has experienced grave injustice, why not see ourselves as survivors looking ahead with optimism?

You can simply decide to let go of the angry thoughts that eat you and invite feelings of love, compassion and empathy replace the anger and bitterness. Obsessing over the negative is known to eventually result in mental health problems.

To forgive, it is important to see things objectively without playing the blame game. As tough as it sounds, the next step is to walk in the shoes of the person who hurt you. Who knows what their side of things might be?

What if you don’t feel like forgiving?

I go through this sometimes, and I think it is fine not to forgive especially with some things are hard to forget, as long there’s no feeling of revenge festering in us. We just let things be. Whether we deserved the hurt or not, the wise thing to do is to initiate healing.For our own good. The most important thing is to come to terms with what is bothering us, whether we forgive or not. Of course, my Mom found it easy to not only forgive those who hurt her, but also wished them well. I’d think that as long as we don’t nurture mean feelings for them, it is as good as forgiveness, right?

What do you think? Is it easy to forgive and forget?

I am eager to know – please share in the comments.

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Tune in with hashtag #AZchat at 6 pm EST (issues with timezones? this tool will help) and join the A-to-Z fun. Ask questions, connect with other A-to-Z-ers, share tips & tricks (or your latest blog post), spread the love–and have a blast.

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Kajal
    March 1, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I forgive and forget. For as long as I can remember I have done just that. yes, I get hurt, yes I get upset but the hurt and pain dies with time. The person who has hurt is cut off from my life forever and I move on. That’s the drill. I forgive even the ones who hurt me and I can’t forget (like family-not immediate) but I never have any negativity for them in my mind. I just blind them out. I like it that way.

    In the sequence, I have lost some fabulous people too, but they hurt me and so they are gone now. I CAN forgive and forget 🙂 And its not SIMPLE and EASY!
    Kajal recently posted…Because, I BelieveMy Profile

  • Reply
    Marie Abanga
    March 1, 2014 at 12:57 am

    I always do forgive and forget because I don’t have space in my head, mind or heart to carry those soggy memories along. Secondly, I forgive because it helps me more than it will help my offender. If we haven’t learnt enough from the great one likes Madiba of blessed memory then we may have a long way to go.
    I also want to add that, we must also learn to forgive ourselves all the time for as you rightly say, we are not our stories. 🙂
    Marie Abanga recently posted…MY Angel and My ShepherdMy Profile

  • Reply
    Cristina
    March 1, 2014 at 2:01 am

    I struggle with this too. Especially with my parents. I recently came across something that’s been very helpful (on pinterest of course)

    “Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got”

    Am I perfect? No, I’m human and can’t be expected to forget all of it. Memories are important, I think to learn from. If I forgot the hurts completely, they would likely happen again, no?

    Great post! So great that I shall tweet!
    Cristina
    Cristina recently posted…Lent SuperFriends Power Pack Family Edition a la #7QT v. 16My Profile

  • Reply
    Carrie-Anne
    March 1, 2014 at 3:10 am

    Forgiveness is something I have actively been working on for almost two years. It is hard. Especially when the person you are trying to forgive consistently attempts to make your life difficult on a weekly basis.

    I’ve learned to let a lot go, but I don’t forget. For me, remembering helps protect me so that I don’t get hurt again.

    I really love this article and it has such a powerful message. When you learn to let go, it is amazing how much better you feel.
    Carrie-Anne recently posted…Two Cents Tuesday Challenge – ShoelessMy Profile

  • Reply
    Mary Stephenson
    March 1, 2014 at 4:48 am

    Hi Vidya

    When people are out of your life that have hurt you it is easy enough to forgive. You transport yourself to be nothing more than an observer. You cannot invest your emotional feelings in it or you end up reliving the experience. It doesn’t come easy but eventually you use up all that fury and rage and then you can stand on the sidelines and be an observer.

    Now with people that you live around or work around that have done you wrong…that is a whole lot tougher. Depends how bad it was as to how quickly you can remove the hurt from your emotions. Somethings that happen can have repercussions for years and you just have to try and put them away like you would old pictures. Deal with it when it comes up. It is never really about forgiving others as it is forgiving yourself to having invested your emotions into it. Forgetting is not so great, because you really don’t want repeat of the same. But not investing time, heart and emotions into it will bring about healing and your sanity.

    Mary
    Mary Stephenson recently posted…What is Team Work?My Profile

  • Reply
    Karen Jolly
    March 1, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Vidya – what a beautiful post. I love how your Mom put it…“Who is asking you to forget? All I am saying is remember in a kind way.” She is so right – not because it is about being “kind” to the people involved – its because it allows you to give that kindness to yourself. When you remember things in a way that is softer and more understanding, you are able let go of the hardness within. I’ve learned this the difficult way with many people from my past. I’d hold on to the memory to protect myself from getting hurt again, only to discover it was hurting inside of me. 🙂 What a lovely way of showing this to us – you and your Mom are SO special. Thank you for sharing this! xo
    Karen Jolly recently posted…Why Don’t You Just Let Go?My Profile

  • Reply
    anna
    March 1, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Forgiving and forgetting is a hard thing to do.

    Sometimes you think you’ve forgiven, but then a chance thing happens and you find yourself mulling over it again and getting bitter and angry a second time. Then you have to forgive all over again!

    I agree gratitude is a great key to forgiveness!

    Thanks for sharing!
    anna recently posted…#fridayflash: Son of the Sun, a snippetMy Profile

  • Reply
    Beloo Mehra
    March 1, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Beautiful post, Vidya! I agree, it is indeed quite stressful and emotionally draining to hold on to past grudges and complaints…no matter how genuine they may seem and even if the hurting still continues. But sometimes remembering those hurtful episodes causes greater hurt, I feel. I like your Mom’s advice about remembering kindly. That is a powerful reminder. Not easy to do I am sure, but then most good things aren’t.
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…A Green SongMy Profile

  • Reply
    Corinne Rodrigues
    March 1, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Yes, the best news is that ‘we are not our stories’ and that we have the power to rewrite things! That is truly empowering and life-changing, once you internalize it.
    I’ve learned in the last year, Vidya, that we have to remember in order to forgive! As painful as it is, revisiting with a view to forgive, hurtful memories that we’ve suppressed, is a great way to heal.
    Great discussion here.

  • Reply
    Danny Simon
    March 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Brilliant post! While it’s not the easiest thing to do, it certainly reaps a lot of benefits. Rather than choosing to live in a prison of unforgiv eness, it’s better to live freely releasing the person..

  • Reply
    Dagny
    March 1, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Vidya,

    This is a wonderful topic you’ve written on. Here’s what I think about the whole ‘forgive and forget’ deal. Needless to say, I have come to this place after a lifetime of trying everything else… with a lot or ire, naturally.

    I have reached a place where I can count on fingers of one hand, the people who can actually ‘hurt’ me. Much as I recommend ‘forgive and forget’, I am a fan of ‘prevention is better than cure’. There are hardly any people who have the power to hurt me.

    Even they who can, can’t hurt me except in certain exclusive circumstances. This further narrows the field down.

    But yes, if I do get hurt, I first ask myself why the person might have done what they did.

    1. Were they aware that I would be hurt by their actions?
    2. Did they do it to hurt me or was it done as a reflex action to protect themselves from pain?
    3. What was going on inside them to make them do what they did?
    4. Where are they hurting… for surely they must be hurting too if they could throw hurting things at me.
    5. Can I help them deal with their pain?

    At the end of this, I really have no energy left to be angry or resentful towards the alleged offender.

    Dagny
    Dagny recently posted…Everyday DestinationsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kalpana Solsi
    March 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    To forget and to forgive : this is a very touchy topic and certainly it requires a strong mind to do so. I still haven’t mastered this form of meditation. Meditation , I feel , it is because the person who is able to forget and forgive both is calm and healthy. Hope I succeed in it.

    To forgive, it is important to see things objectively without playing the blame game. As tough as it sounds, the next step is to walk in the shoes of the person who hurt you. Who knows what their side of things might be?

    Vidya , this sentence has left me thinking. Yes it is necessary and important to step into the shoes of the person who has hurt you. Maybe the person is right.
    Kalpana Solsi recently posted…2 states of mind.My Profile

  • Reply
    Richa Singh
    March 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I recall you writing something similar on one of my posts. I am one of those people who forgive but don’t forget. And often I wonder if I cannot forget have I truly forgiven? Well of course I agree with all that you have said. But particularly the point where you say about letting things be. It is true some things cannot be forgiven, they are way beyond that. But letting go comes as an easy second…
    Richa Singh recently posted…What is all this #blogchatter ?My Profile

  • Reply
    Shailaja V
    March 1, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Vidya,

    I couldn’t agree more with all that you have said. The whole idea of forgiving and forgetting takes shape only when we can feel it from within. Force it and it loses its significance. A post on a similar concept, which I wrote a while ago, is here: http://momdiary.blogspot.in/2013/11/at-loss.html

  • Reply
    Kaarina Dillabough
    March 1, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I find it easy and natural to forgive, but the forgetting…not always as easy. Cheers! Kaarina
    Kaarina Dillabough recently posted…Be In This MomentMy Profile

  • Reply
    Michelle Liew
    March 1, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Yes, Vidya, we forgive others for ourselves. While it is for the good of others too, we’re the main beneficiaries of forgiveness, so that in itself is a good motivation.

  • Reply
    Poornima
    March 2, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Your post reminded me of some events. For a long time, I had not forgiven nor forgotten. Time heals most hearts. Now, I have forgiven but not, forgotten. As you say though, I remember it no longer with grief, sadness and “why?” syndrome. I choose to highlight only the Good memories. Thanks for a lovely read.
    Poornima recently posted…A Crafty Kit : A (Re-)ViewMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kathy Combs
    March 2, 2014 at 1:55 am

    In my heart of hearts I had to forgive my sister and move on. I had to let it go to be happy again…but I in doing so I can’t forget the abuse, the things she put me through, or the way she has always treated me. Therefore I chose to no longer have any contact with her. I chose to give up on trying to have a relationship again because I felt I deserved something better than to be miserable. I am sorry it can’t be different but I no longer torment myself with it. Your post hit a chord. In my life it has always just been easier to walk away from people who got their jollies on making me miserable. Did I forgive them? I am not sure. Technically…I don’t know. I choose not to think about it. It is hard to forget, and equally hard to go asking for the same treatment again. I just can’t. Life is so much happier without the drama.
    Kathy Combs recently posted…Into the SunsetMy Profile

  • Reply
    My Inner Chick
    March 2, 2014 at 3:35 am

    I love the deepness & passion of your soul, Vidya.

    I believe forgiving sets us free,

    but forgetting…

    Oooo, that’s an entirely new concept.

    Sometimes “remembering” makes us move forward w/ our story, our passion, & our mission to transform what once was.

    Love you more than sushi w/ lots of ginger. XXXxxx
    My Inner Chick recently posted…A Beautiful ResurrectionMy Profile

  • Reply
    Rekha
    March 2, 2014 at 6:14 am

    “You’re probably thinking, forgiving is tough. Who said forgiving is easy? As with all unpleasant things, the concept sounds great until we have to do it ourselves. Moreover, I personally don’t think forgetting is good for health. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is near-impossible for me to forget.”

    I echo your thoughts here. A continuous process forgiving is. But forgetting as of now looks impossible.
    Rekha recently posted…Martian AdventureMy Profile

  • Reply
    meenamenon
    March 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I do not find it easy either to forgive or forget! Forgive I may but forget I seldom do! Usually its a case of – Once biteen twice shy

  • Reply
    Proactive Indian
    March 2, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    ‘The stupid neither forgive nor forget;
    the naïve forgive and forget;
    the wise forgive but do not forget.’
    … Thomas Szasz

    Most of the time, I don’t find it too difficult to forgive because I believe in giving the other person the benefit of doubt. I’ve been blessed/cursed with a very good memory, so I can’t forget! But I remember without bitterness.

    This is easy when:
    a. I think that, if I had been in the same position as the ‘offender’, I might have behaved in the same way, and
    b. The primary reason for the person’s behaviour was NOT to harm or humiliate me, and
    c.i. The person is no longer in my life now, or
    c.ii. The person continues to be in my life, but has, by word or deed, directly or indirectly, shown some kind of regret.

    If I am convinced that the person intended to harm and/or humiliate me (or somebody else), and that person continues to be in my life, but has not shown any kind of regret, then I do not forgive, I do not forget (again no bitterness!) and I make sure, without being obsessed about it, that the person gets some retribution. I believe that’s necessary to prevent that person from behaving in the same manner with others who may not be in a position to respond suitably.
    Proactive Indian recently posted…‘Friendly’ corruption!My Profile

  • Reply
    vishalbheeroo
    March 3, 2014 at 3:51 am

    I find it difficult to forgive and forget. Yes! I will not think of such people coz I don’t wanna give them importance they are not worth!
    vishalbheeroo recently posted…Day 1: WTFW-9 Sentence Fiction: Bonding over Pani PuriMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kelly Boyer Sagert
    March 3, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Forgiving has become easier for me as I get older, probably because I realize — more and more — that none of us is perfect. And, we’d all like to BE forgiven, right? So it makes sense to extend the same grace.

  • Reply
    Seeta
    March 3, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I loved what your mum says ““Who is asking you to forget? All I am saying is remember in a kind way”.” I will try and imbibe that in me from now on.. and like you said its more about coming to terms with things, forgetting is usually not possible but forgiving is more often than not an outcome of coming to terms with it.
    Seeta recently posted…Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy TanMy Profile

  • Reply
    Anjana
    March 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    This reminds me of an English teacher of mine who kept repeating the same line in class…i always thought too that the same can only be achieved by people with big hearts!
    Thank you for the read….

  • Reply
    Martine Joseph
    March 3, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Vidya, I love how you are letting go of old stories and moving forward. Those who hurt you clearly did not love themselves. Can you look back and see them with compassion for a moment, even if you don’t feel like it? What did they teach you? Do you love yourself more today as a result of those experiences? Are you now helping to transform cultural practices that are less than loving? I see you as a great leader in love and compassion!
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  • Reply
    Elle
    March 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    So true Vidya, being unable to forgive means we are holding ourselves in the same prison along with those who wounded or hurt us. Personally I like to be free and if I have to practice forgiveness daily till I get there I’ll do it. I’ve always found the releasing technique great for letting go and allowing love to flow.
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  • Reply
    Don't Sweat The Small Stuff - Everyday Gyaan
    March 4, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    […] learn that life is too short to keep grudges and that while you may not be able to forget, you somehow find the grace to forgive and move on – if only for your own […]

  • Reply
    Sandra Pawula
    March 10, 2014 at 1:30 am

    So many wise points in this article, Vidya. In my experience, it’s not always easy to forgive. When that’s the case, similar to your approach, I make the aspiration to be able to forgive. I keep making the wish to be able to forgive and eventually it does come to pass.

    I know how harmful it is to hold a grudge, so I really try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and try not to hold on to a negative attitude. But, when it’s tough, aspiration really helps.
    Sandra Pawula recently posted…Good, Evil and the Meaning of Always Well WithinMy Profile

  • Reply
    Inspired Every Day - Vidya Sury
    April 10, 2014 at 12:28 am

    […] short stories, fiction and nonfiction. These stories celebrate and honor reconnection, possibility, forgiveness, family, love, joy and finding moments of extraordinary grace in the midst of ordinary […]

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