There are deficiencies in the forgiveness method known as forgive and forget when used in relationships that have caused significant harm. Forgive and forget as a method of forgiveness is not effective in addressing the hurt of the victim. When faced with a situation where great damage and pain has been experienced does God demand us to simply just forgive and forget? There is a spiritually gratifying method that allows you to move beyond anger, hatred, and hurt to a place of peace, solace and growth; and it is not forgiving and forgetting.
Traditional Ideas and Methods of Forgiveness
Recently I experienced a situation where my brother’s actions in one sense and his refusal to act in another sense caused me great emotional distress and placed significant strain on our relationship. I love my brother and had no desire to stay in such a position for long so in an attempt to both self-heal and repair the relationship I spoke to him about what troubled me. Unfortunately, I was met with resistance in listening to what I had to say, denial of any wrongdoing on his part, rejection of my feelings of hurt, and disregard of any need to take the troubles in the relationship seriously. I spoke to friends and family seeking help in finding a resolution and was told that I should give my forgiveness to him. I was instructed to forgive and forget; simply let go in order to reconcile with my brother because the relationship was more important than the issues themselves.
To forgive and forget would have let my brother off the hook but it would do nothing to address my issues. I asked myself are not my feelings, my hurt, my concerns, my mental and spiritual wellbeing just as important as the relationship; or have they been exchanged, forfeited, sacrificed for the purpose of sustaining the relationship? If I were to give up those things that were important to me, respect, boundaries, decency, and love honor of self, what would be left? What relationship is worth losing yourself? How is a relationship considered valuable when it doesn’t value you?
Imam Ali: The best deed of a great man is to forgive and forget
Forgive and forget? Forgiveness cannot be carried out without recognizing what the problem is or the relationship will continue to suffer. How can you forget a problem that has not been identified and given the appropriate attention? What exactually is being forgiven or forgotten when the issue has not been properly recognized and addressed? Forgive and forget does not lead to a solution, it cannot give you reconciliation, because forgive and forget it is the antithesis of reconciliation. I say this because forgiveness and reconciliation only happen when people are:
1. Aware there is a problem in the relationship
2. Able to recognize their individual contribution to that problem
3. Open to listen to the other person
4. Willing to change out of love and respect for the other person, in the name of personal self-improvement and for the health of the relationship
Forgive and forget is the absolute worst way to handle a problem relationship because it’s a method that doesn’t address the problems in a relationship.
Quran: If you overlook and forgive, God is forgiving, merciful
Religion tells us God demands people to forgive regardless of the nature of the issue; rape, murder, theft, betrayal, abuse, whatever the trouble is the response of the victim should always be forgiveness. In religion the responsibility for forgiveness is often given to the one that has been hurt.
Taoism: When the evil one is forgiven, they are no longer evil
The victim is expected to move one, let go, forgive and forget regardless of who that abusive person is; friend, enemy, parent, or stranger. The severity of the infraction does not matter; it could be something small to something serious whatever it is, needs to be forgiven, period. According to this way of thinking, the right thing to do is to forgive, in order to restore the relationship, and forget, move on, let go so that peace can be achieved, and those in conflict can remain in good standing with each other and with God.
Confucianism: The superior man tends to forgive wrongs and deals leniently with crimes
God Made Me Do It
According to these religious references one can say that God made me do it; that God demands that we forgive those that have done us harm. This is the dominant message that comes from religion in regard to forgiveness, it is ordered by God. It is believed that good people, wise people, great people, truly godly people forgive, forget and move on, because the consequence for unforgiveness is Gods unwillingness to forgive you.
Christianity: But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Reading these scriptures, we see that on a spiritual level unforgiveness causes trouble between us and God. Unforgiveness imprisons our mind and spirit, holds us in darkness, hurt and blinds us with hate. So, I ask why is something this diabolical used against us by God? If unforgiveness is what God wants to do away with, why is it used as a tool to punish?
We’ve witnessed what unforgiveness amongst men can do but imagine what kind of damage divine unforgiveness would do? Would not the use of a divine unforgiveness against humankind simply create more unforgiveness in the hearts of humankind? More dysfunctional relationships? More hatred, injustice, division, racism, and segregation, in the world? Are we to believe that God is using fire to fight fire? The idea of God using unforgiveness to punish unforgiveness makes God out to be emotionally immature and spiritually irresponsible which is not the truth. So, the idea that God threatens the unforgiving person with unforgiveness is rejected because it would make God not only unforgiving but a source and distributor of unforgiveness.
When a boxer suffers from cuts and bruises from taking punches to the face, you don’t treat his wounds by giving medical attention to the hands of his opponent that caused the wounds. No this would only strengthen those hands in order to do more damage, doing nothing for the wounds but making them worst. So, we should not be so focused on giving attention to those that hurt us but rather giving attention to self-healing and detachment from the damaging experiences, and the people directly associated to the damage.
Forgiveness is not Always the Answer
I believe forgive and forget is a good tactic but only when the conditions are reasonable, it does not work in every situation. I can see reasons to forgive and forget in cases such as someone accidently bumping into you, stepping on your shoe, or other actions that don’t cause deep hurt and psychological damage. In these cases, I say yes, forgive people for those common human mistakes and move on. There is no use in being angry because the cashier at Walmart didn’t respond when you said good morning.
But those things that cause someone to suffer greatly, or negatively alter their state of mental and spiritual standing do not fall in the category of forgive and forget. Those experiences require a loving response that is attentive to the person that is hurt. They need to be spiritually replenished in those areas where they have been wounded giving attention to themselves for the purpose of healing.
If the mother whose three-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and decapitated by her boyfriend last year in India fails to forgive and forget, to let go, to move one, to love her enemies, to turn the other cheek; do you believe God will eventually inflict on her in additional to the very real pain she is experiencing after such a horrible experience a divine unforgiveness.
Is this an expression of the unconditional love of God to demand this mother to forgive and forget, move on, let go after she has suffered great damage, personal loss and genuine hurt? It is very possible for her to move beyond the hate she has for the men that murdered, raped and decapitated her three-year-old daughter but is it realistic to ask her to love them? Is it honoring to her as one that is loved by God, a victim of such a malicious crime to ask her to turn the other cheek so that they can do it again?
I’m not saying that God wants her to hold on to hate for the men that did this but the method of forgiveness; that says forgive and forget, let go, get over it or even worst that God commands you to forgive or you will not be forgiven does not acknowledge her pain as a victim, it does not support the needed mental and spiritual healing needed. Forgive and forget is not loving, respectful, or showing value for the victim. It does not show God to be compassionate and empathic, willing to provide protection, solace and hope. It makes God out to be abusive, toxic, and narcissistic.
God provides opportunity for those in despair, giving attention to their unique needs for healing and comfort. In situations that cause us damage and hurt I don’t believe God commands us to focus on forgiveness of the one that hurt us. Again, I’m not suggesting that you hate them, you definitely want to detach from dark emotions and negative energy. But I believe God wants us to give attention to ourselves and focus on self-healing first and foremost.
When a boxer suffers from cuts and bruises from taking punches to the face, you don’t treat his wounds by giving medical attention to the hands of his opponent that caused the wounds. No this would only strengthen those hands in order to do more damage, doing nothing for the wounds but making them worst. So, we should not be so focused on giving attention to those that hurt us but rather giving attention to self-healing and detachment from the damaging experiences, and people directly associated to the damage.
When you need to heal, you give attention to the wound itself and not the device that caused the wound. Give attention to your peace by removing yourself from negative situations. Give attention to your freedom to be who and what you are without conforming to the needs of a relationship or person that fails to see you as valuable. Give attention to your need to be loved, honored, and respected; Give attention to you, do it for yourself, not for another. Do it to heal yourself, not for the sake of the other person. Do it because you love yourself. Do it because it’s what you need and not what someone else demands.
Forgiveness is About Self
He was angry with me
He attacked me
He defeated me
He robbed me
Those who dwell on such thoughts
will never be free from hatred
He was angry with me
He attacked me
He defeated me
He robbed me
Those who do not dwell on such thoughts
will surely be free from hatred
Forgiveness is not an erasure of hurtful situation or the events themselves because what has happened during the course of time is not able to be changed. Forgiveness is the process of moving toward the acceptance of the events that have occurred. Forgiveness means giving attention to yourself and healing from your wounds. Forgiveness is personal. Forgiveness is about self. Self-loving, self-healing, self-validation, self-acceptance, self-focus, self-reflection and maintaining your self-identity.
It means not letting the damage, pain, and hurt change you for the worst. It means accepting that things have changed and using it for your self-improvement. It’s about staying in the light and avoiding finding comfort in the dark places. It’s about staying on your spiritual path and not allowing the pain you feel to steer you off your path. It’s for your own sake. It removes hatred, anger, resentment, rage and despair. It disconnects you from the chains that are keeping you in unwanted places.
Forgiveness is not about finding peace with the one that harmed you, that may never happen nor is it necessary, nor is it left up to you to find that peace in another person. They are responsible for finding their own peace with themselves and what they have done. You can’t control the peace between yourself and another person, but you can work on finding peace within yourself, find your own peace and peaceful people and experiences will come to you because of it.
You’re not obligated to let go in order to reconnect with people. Work on reconnecting to the light that guides you, reestablishing your connection with love, light, and peace. Let go of the idea that forgiveness is a command from God to reconcile by any means with those that have harmed you. If you have been hurt and suffering from an experience or relationship God wants you to reconcile your relationship with Gods peace, Gods light, and Gods love first and foremost.