Forgive and Forget

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I spent the entire morning the other day with the only other person that knows me other than my husband, talking about how easily it is for us to say “I forgive you” for a wrong doing. But part of the forgiveness process involves forgetting the incident totally.

We talked about something that happened in my life way back when in the ice age that took my breath away. I have always been capable of forgiving people who had wronged me in whatever way and then moved on with my life. But a wrong was done to me and this has left me in a stew pot for 2 months now.

As a practising Christian, I was taught the Golden Rule, do the right thing, and forgive and forget. And one of children would say but I forgave them last time and then they did it again, why do I have to forgive them again? And mom would say you have to do it 70 times 70 as Christ told us.

And now being a Latter Day Saint, being able to forgive and forget needs to be done or you do not go to the temple. You can not go in there with a grudge or bad thoughts in your mind, heart or soul.

I am 51 years old, and this is the first time I have not forgiven easily and it will be a long time before I can forget. So what do I do? It is not something that I can fix; I am just very hurt. My friend and I talked for hours that morning saying how people seem to say those two words, “I forgive you,” but then then bring it up at every disagreement or when they want to drive a point across. Obviously not very forgotten.

To me, I have always had both of them together: I forgive and I forget and I move on with my life. And that was the reason why the call with my friend. After a few hours yakking, we really had not accomplished more of anything else. I won’t be able to go to the temple now till I get that sorted out. And that is going to hurt. I could just go anyway, but seeing as they do ask the patrons there if anyone has any bad feelings toward the others you may want to step away, I have such a gullible face they would seek me out with a missile let me tell you,

Then we talked about how I had forgiven this person on his death bed; how I had told him that; how I told him how hard it had been to live with that kind of garbage; and how I told him I loved him and all was forgotten. He said, “I know,” and in a split second had a stroke and never regained consciousness.

If I already forgive for the things that happened in my youth, which I knew of at the time of the forgiveness, then does that count for the new stuff I just got knowledge of? I don’t know what to do. It is all I can think of all summer and it is filling me with feelings that had long been buried. Some that had been forgotten for many decades. Only now they are all resurfacing at the same time and it is sensory overload. I do not know what to do. How do you forgive someone who is dead?

Is this the time that you say, “Lord, it is in your hands,” and just forget about it? Is there a time limit to hold “grudges” without getting into trouble?

6 thoughts on “Forgive and Forget

  1. I never knew how hard it was to forgive, or how hard it could be, until a few years ago. It seemed easy and we are “supposed to just do it”. But forgiveness isn’t just for their sake of course, it is for our own. Learning to forgive and it can be a process in and of itself and it also entails something that we cannot forget. Forgiveness is a part of the Atonement of Christ and He not only gave His life and suffered for the people needing forgiveness, but for forgiveness too. Yes, a time comes when we are to give it to the Lord, and let Him take care of this, but this is what comes when we come to that realisation that we need the Lord’s atonement in this area as much as anyone seeking forgiveness for some wrongdoing.

    A few years ago I went through this myself, struggling to understand how to forgive when I wouldn’t let myself. It took a full two years for me to truly forgive, in spite of the fact that the person was unwilling to admit everything or change that. It came with understanding as well. And that forgiveness remained, remains now, because I can look with compassion on the person and hold no animosity for the behaviour and actions. Both the time it took and the ability to be able to actually forgive took me by surprise. I had never been tested like that before. I won’t say I am automatically a perfect forgiver or able to accept anything with cheerfulness etc, but I do understand what role the Saviour plays and why it is so important to forgive. What also helped me was to know that the Lord knows the heart of the offender, whatever evil he or she may have done and being able to cast myself on the mercy of the Lord and know that He forgives ME makes it oh so much better.

    I don’t know if the forgiveness you gave counts. I suppose in a sense it does, but at the same time it takes processing. You can’t just learn of it and say “ok that’s that”. The only way we COULD do that is if we were at the perfect state of the Saviour. You still need to give yourself time. And prayer and scripture study will also help. Constant of course. I know there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s only been 2 months, that is a really short time.

  2. While the Lord says He will remember our sins no more, I can find no place that says forgive AND forget.
    I once had a woman who stiffed both me and a friend for months’ worth of child care. We forgave her. My friend asked the Bishop if forgiving meant doing childcare for her again. He said that it would be silly to stand in front of a bus that had just run over you.
    Next example: another friend knew of a man who had been in prison for child molestation. She felt he had done his time and should be forgiven. She allowed him to care for her children. He molested them. Putting someone in the way of temptation because you forgive them is not a loving thing to do, unless you are God and know what they can handle.

    We have memories so that the problems we have can give us experience. Total forgetfulness would defeat that.

    We forgive others and ourselves so we do not spend time dwelling on our pain instead of looking forward to Christ. We also don’t want to stand in the way of the other person’s repentance process. Sometimes a wrongdoer must be forgiven so they can get out of a self-protection mode and move on to a repenting mode.

    All that sai; forgiveness takes time. Perhaps your effort to forget what happened got in the way of forgiving. I also believe that there are different depths to forgiveness, mostly dependent on how much we, ourselves, have experienced. The forgiving you did long ago was probably to the depth to which you were capable at the time. Now you are older and more experienced and so more feelings have surfaced so that you can more fully forgive.
    Forgiving isn’t forgetting. It is getting to a place where the wrong and the wrongdoer no longer cause you pain — or put you in a downward spiral.
    You can go to the temple. Just don’t go in the prayer circle. You need to do whatever it takes to get the Lord’s help so that you may heal enough to fully forgive.
    If forgiving were easy, it wouldn’t need to be a commandment.

  3. I’m not sure forgiving has to accompany forgetting everything about the incident. Sometimes it’s important to not forget. However, we can have the terrible feelings ‘forgotten’ in a sense in that the hurt and pain doesn’t seem to rise to the surface the same.

  4. Thank you for your replies..they have helped. I can not confront the person as he since long died, I had forgiven him when he was at the end of his life and basically got on with my life. I have always tried to focus on the positive aspects of my upbringing. I did forgive him on his death bed but because I did not have all the answers at the time I forgave him I have to wonder if I had done so easily. But now this new stuff I was privy has made me very angry.

    Kim you asked earlier, why last 2 months and not 35 years ago. I am not sure what you are asking me I do not understand your question, Please can you re ask the question in a different way?

  5. Remember, too, that you are not in charge of his repentence process. You are only in charge of your forgiveness. He still has to repent, if he hadn’t before he died. Repentence after death takes much longer and is much harder than it is during mortality. That’s why we need to both repent and forgive here in mortality.
    Now that you know more things he had done, you have more to forgive him for. That doesn’t negate the fact that you forgave him before.
    Try not to spend time beating yourself up over how deep or not your forgiveness was before. Just get on with asking the Lord’s help in the process you need to go through to forgive now.

  6. I highly recommend a talk given by C. Terry Warner called Why We Forgive. I think they only way to get it may be as an audio tape or CD. I tried to encapsulate the heart of the message in a post I wrote a while back. Basically, it is a lot like what Norma has written above.

    In short, forgiveness isn’t about the other person at all. It is about relieving ourselves of the accusing feelings and bitterness that poison our souls. Forgiving is an act of turning judgment entirely over to the Lord.

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