Is It Always Wise to Forgive and Forget?By Homaira Kabir
I always believed that forgiving went hand in hand with forgetting. I believed that when we forgave someone for their mistakes—or ourselves for our failings—we freed ourselves to move on with a clean slate. Our relationships blossomed, we felt good about ourselves, and we left the ashes of the past where they belonged.
Such lofty ideals often take a tumble in the face of reality. More than once, I've suffered for choosing to forget situations where someone had a reason—conscious or subconscious—to harm or take advantage of another. More than once, I've let my guard down before the lesser angels of my nature and hurt a dear one or failed to do the right thing.
The reality is that we're human. We desire to be good—but we're also curtailed by an overriding need to survive that's sometimes beneficial, but more often misguided. Staying aware of our inherent paradox while keeping faith in our higher intentions is a fine balancing act that takes more than a clean sweep of the past.
In my work as a positive psychology coach helping people live their most meaningful lives, I've found that a 2x2 framework, with the importance of the relationship on one axis and the sincerity of the apology on the other, is a great way to bring clarity to the situation. If you're carrying grudges and anger or regrets and self-loathing from the past that keep you from living the life that awaits you, spend a few moments on it and see what you find.
An Important Relationship and a Sincere Apology
If the relationship is important to you—and this includes your relationship with yourself—and the apology is sincere, it’s wise to both forgive and forget. Perhaps a friend or family member falsely accused you of something, your child acted impulsively and let you down, or your partner had a weak moment and wronged you. Perhaps you gave in to your urges or anger and acted in a way that you now regret. Difficult as it may be, try to see yourself/the other person as human and fallible, and if the apology is sincere with a plan of how to avoid a similar situation in the future, focus instead on how to rebuild your relationship. However, if the sincere apology is a recurring theme, you may want to seek help for yo