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How to forgive when you cannot forget

Forgive and 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.

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.



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.


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.

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?

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?

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