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How to Forgive What You Cannot Forget

Life is Too Short to Hold On to grudges.

We have all been there before. Someone does something that hurt us deeply and we just can’t seem to let it go. It festers inside of us and every time we see that person, or even think about them, we get angry all over again. Why can’t we just forgive and forget? Because forgiveness is not forgetting. In order to truly forgive someone, you have to first remember what they did. You have to relive the hurt and the pain so that you can process it and move on.

One of the hardest things to do in life is to forgive someone— especially when we feel like they don’t deserve it. We want them to understand the pain that they caused us and we want them to suffer. But holding on to anger and resentment is only going to hurt us in the long run. As what my favorite author Mitch Albom shared in The Five People You Meet in Heaven,

"Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from the inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

So how do we forgive someone when we can’t forget?

  1. Acknowledge the pain.

Understand that forgiveness is not forgetting but you don't have to feel angry either. In order to forgive, we have to first remember what happened so that we can deal with it. Acknowledging the pain that you feel is important to allow yourself to feel the hurt and anger so that you can begin to process it. Only then can you start to move on from it.

2. Understand and make a precise decision.

We need to ask ourselves why we want to forgive this person. Is it for their benefit or for ours? Oftentimes, people think that they need to forgive someone in order for that person to feel better— but that’s not always the case.

Forgiveness is not a selfless act; it’s a selfish one. We need to forgive people so that we can move on with our lives. It allows us to leave off the emotional baggage behind. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. Forgiving someone is not condoning their actions; it’s recognizing that we are human beings who make mistakes. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it allows us to let go of the pain and resentment so that we can live our lives more fully.

3. Take action.

You may explore options. This might mean writing a letter to the person (which you don't have to send) or doing something nice for them. The goal is to break the cycle of negativity so that you can start feeling better about yourself and your life.

Life is too short hold on grudges— even if what happened was really terrible and hard to forget.

If you are struggling to forgive someone, breathe and remember these:

  • Acknowledge

  • Understand

  • Act

Try your best each day too let go of a little bit of anger and resentment until one day you wake up and realize that you have forgiven this person completely . . . even if you can never forget what happened.


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