How to forgive when you cannot forget

Sep 26

Written By

The Daily Guru Team

Riser Article

How to forgive when you cannot forget

How do you forgive someone who has hurt you? How do you forgive betrayal if you can’t forget the heartache?

A child who has let you down, a spouse who has deeply disappointed you, a friend who has shared something told in confidence. The hurt can stick around with an unwillingness to let go.

David Teachout, a mental health professional, says: “Forgetting is an aspect of biology, forgiveness arises out of will.”

But willing forgiveness is not an easy feat.

Today, we want to share with you how to move beyond the pain and mistrust to give yourself permission to forgive.

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Have you ever heard the story of Chris Carrier? It was 1974 and Chris was just 10 years old. He was abducted near his home, taken to an area of swampland, stabbed repeatedly and shot through the temple with a handgun, then left alone. Miraculously, Chris survived (though he was blinded in the left eye as a result of the shooting) and went on to become a youth minister, get married and have children.

22 years after Chris was abducted, a man named David McAllister confessed to the abduction. David was 77 years old, blind, frail and living in a nursing home. Chris went to see him and David apologized. Chris said that “there would be nothing like anger or revenge between us, nothing except a new friendship”.

Forgiveness of this magnitude may be difficult to understand, but both Chris and David found closure as a result of Chris’ forgiveness. While many people tend to believe that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, it can actually be a huge feat of courage and strength.


Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it can be important to forgive.



Forgiving someone is not about ‘letting them off the hook.’ Forgiveness doesn’t mean you pardon or excuse the other person’s actions. And it definitely doesn’t mean you should forget the incident ever happened. It’s about gifting yourself the space to let go of the pain and the anguish for your personal peace and benefit, not necessarily theirs.

Forgiveness is really about ourselves and our own journey. It has nothing to do with what the other person did or didn’t do; it is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and resilience. Through forgiving someone else, we are symbolically letting go of our negative feelings and creating a sense of inner peace. We may never forget the wrong that was done to us, but we can forgive out of respect for ourselves and so that we can move on from the pain and free up space for positive energy in our lives. By taking charge of one’s own emotions through forgiveness, we have an opportunity to expand our potential for true happiness.



As Marie Forleo says: “No matter how good your intentions, you can pretty much guarantee that at some point or another, you’ll hurt those you love.”

And in the same vein, they’ll hurt you. We’re complex beings, us humans. We need to remember that. We need to remember that we, too, make mistakes and need to be forgiven at times. A grudge can wedge a canyon the size of the Grand Canyon between you and another person if you’re not open to honoring each other’s humanness and letting things go.


Forgiveness puts the final seal on what happened that hurt you. You will no doubt still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it. Studies indicate that forgiveness brings happiness, suggesting that people’s physical, mental, relational and even spiritual health, vastly improves.

By choosing consciously not keep holding onto these resentments against another person—even if you cannot forget what happened—you are allowing yourself the freedom of forgiving them without actively condoning their actions or behavior patterns that were hurtful towards yourself or others around you.

It’s important also remember that even if we don’t always make conscious efforts towards actively “forgiving” those who have wronged us, taking steps towards recognizing our feelings so that we may eventually find peace within ourselves is still a form of forgiveness no matter which way one decides go about processing any unresolved issues internally or externally with those involved directly affected by any given situation(s).

If you decide you are willing to forgive, find some quiet time to be alone with your thoughts and follow these four steps:


Step 1: Think about the incident that irritated you.

Accept that it happened. Accept how you felt about it and how it made you react. It’s important to recognize your feelings in order to move forward on the path to forgiving someone who has wronged you. Taking time alone to process your emotions will help you gain clarity on what it is that needs to be forgiven so that you can begin healing from the hurt or betrayal.

Step 2: Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of what happened.

What did it make you learn about yourself? What did you learn about your needs and boundaries? How did you cope with being challenged?

Step 3: Now, think about the other person.

He or she is flawed because all human beings are flawed. When you were hurt, the other person was trying to have a need met. What do you think this need was and why did the person go about it in such a hurtful way?

Forgiveness often requires understanding from both sides of a situation. Take some time to consider why the other person may have acted or reacted as they did—perhaps their behavior was a reflection of something going on inside them that had nothing at all to do with you personally. This exercise can help create empathy between both parties involved which is essential for forgiveness and healing any relationships that may have been damaged by the event(s).

Step 4: Finally, decide whether or not you want to forgive the person.

Are you ready to let go – not for them, but for you?


Forgiveness is an enormous subject. Most of us spend our entire lives trying to embrace and embody this virtue.


How has forgiving and forgetting worked for you?


Forgive and forget

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I'm Rebecca Sparks - Founder of The Daily Guru. I'm also a Self Development Coach,
a Speaker and a Podcaster. 

What drives me most in life is a fascination & curiosity with how we can make the most of our short time here on this planet.  How do we make our lives feel meaningful? How can we make life feel fulfilling?  And how can we turn these elements into a lifestyle? 

My mission is to help women explore these topics and to design a life that taps into all of their essentials.

more about me

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