Forgive and Forget – but at what cost?

This post was originally published 24th January 2021

I have often heard people tell those that feel wronged that they should forgive and forget – always adding that forgiveness is useful to the one that forgives but I have never found it so easy to do. When it comes to forgiveness, it is very difficult to forgive much more forget when the person who has done the wrong is not sorry for what they had done or simply not aware that what they had done had wronged the other person. I have found several posts on social media recently about forgiving and forgetting – and I do agree with most of the posts but it is the forgetting part that sometimes leaves me scratching my head a bit.

When people talk about forgiveness, unless you are the person who has been wronged, it is pretty easy to tell someone to get over something that happened to them. But in my experience, when I had been wronged, I needed time to come to a place of forgiveness and it is only then that I can start thinking about forgetting what had happened. Maybe it is different for other people but I am not someone who is good at pretending all is ok when I have been wronged. Over the years, I have learned to get along with people in social settings who have wronged me, however, in private, it is a very different story.

A few years ago, my cousin met a man she really liked – they lived on different continents but their connection was so strong that they both decided that regardless the distance, they would make it work. She was at that time at university and he was doing quite well in his career – though they were in different time zones, they would make time to talk each day and all seemed to be going well. She told me how they had planned for the future and things that irritated her in other people, with him, she did not notice these things and from where I was sitting, he was very much into her also. We had a huge family gathering coming up and were all meeting in Ghana for this gathering. Her long distance boyfriend decided to join her for the gathering and he would take the opportunity to also visit his family. As my cousin was still in university, she had a three week window to travel and get back to university without missing out on lectures. Her boyfriend went to Ghana a week before she went and as he had not been int he country for decades, my cousin asked a couple of her best friends to show him around before she got to town. This seemingly innocent request would be the beginning of the breakdown of many relationships in her life.

When my cousin’s boyfriend got to Ghana, the friends did get in touch with him to show him around – however he declined as he had decided to visit his family and had found cousins around his age who decided to show him around. However, one of my cousin’s friends, the one she trusted the most, had the number of her boyfriend and she decided that she would pursue him into a relationshio with her. She called him and made up stories about my cousin to this man – to justify her actions, she also started spreading stories that were not true to their mutual friends. By the time my cousin found out what was happening, the damage done was irreparable in most instances. She recounts getting to Ghana and going to this family event with her boyfriend – to her all seemed well. She would later introduce her friends to her boyfriend in person and yet she had no idea what stories were circulating in the background. Her suspicion started when her friend called her boyfriend whiles she was with him – her friend would call and when she was around, she would not speak and her boyfriend would have to end the call after several hellos had been said with no response. Her boyfriend would then go on to explain that he had said nothing because he did not want to upset her but he had been getting several messages from her and it was getting tiring. When my cousin asked her other friend, that’s when all the web of lies were exposed.

My cousin had then lost trust for her boyfriend because why would he not tell her what her friend had been doing and at the same time, she was losing the best friend she had had since she was ten years old. She recalls how for years she was heartbroken and unsure how to understand what had happened and then to forgive and forget. When she told her mother, she was devastated for her and advised her to forgive and forget as that would lead to a path of healing for her. I remember her asking me back then how she was going to forgive – in response to all the people asking her to forgive and forget, she decided to continue with her boyfriend and friends like nothing had happened. She would however feel the strain in her relationship with her boyfriend and communication was no longer as easy as it used to be. She would continue communicating with her friend and said friend would continue to ask how my cousin’s boyfriend was doing. In keeping appearances, she would lie that all was well.

When her relationship with her boyfriend finally ended, it was then that she realised that she was disrespecting herself by pretending that all was well and not paying attention to how she was feeling. I remember our conversation one afternoon over lunch – she felt this weight of guilt on her shoulders for not being able to forgive. My young self did not know any better and told her she should try and forgive – as if it was that easy. I watched my once very happy cousin walk around sad for months – eventually she got over the breakup with the boyfriend however, whenever she thought of the betrayal of her friend, I saw the anger in her eyes. About 7 years after the incident – her friend finally called to apologise and not wanting to open old wounds, she told her friend it was all forgotten. Her friend tried to mend the relationship but apart from a few awkward conversations, nothing much could be done to repair the damage done.

At a family function a couple of years ago, my cousin and I discussed what had happened then, my aunt Cecilia happened to hear our conversation and that was when she told us both that sometimes forgiveness means addressing the wrong that had been done. That expressing how you feel and letting people know that you need time to heal from what had been done to you is a form of acknowledging yourself and giving the opportunity to the other person to take ownership of their actions. For years my cousin was angry, because she wanted to forgive without addressing how she felt and she wanted to forget without forgiving what had happened. It took her years to finally acknowledge her feelings and to finally express it – she has finally moved on from what happened and we now laugh about it but she does admit though, that it has made her less trusting and a bit fearful of building new connections.

We all deal with things differently – when a wrong is done to us, it falls on us to be honest with ourselves and understand our journey to a place of healing. Yes, someone may advise you to forgive and forget – but what does forgiving and forgetting look to you? Every act of forgiveness requires a sacrifice of some sort to get to that place – be it your feelings, relationships, self esteem and the list goes on – some sacrifice is required and we lose things we may never get back. Like most things, forgiving and forgetting is a different journey for everyone and we should never hold others expectations over ourselves to get over things without acknowledging how we feel. It is also good to remember that the people who wrong us may never acknowledge the wrong they had done and may never be sorry – and that makes forgiveness even more difficult. But as you forgive and forget, make sure you never forget the lessons learnt in those experiences.

I would love to hear from you and if you have had a similar experience, then let’s effect the change we need by sharing our experiences.


6 thoughts on “Forgive and Forget – but at what cost?

  1. The number of times I have questioned how and why I could t forgive certain people for certain wrongs done me, I have lost count
    People have tried to make me feel as tho I was less of a Christian for not being able to forget, forgetting that it hits differently unless you are the victim
    Generally, I try to forgive but one or two wrongs that have altered my life significantly and which were done knowingly by these people, God help me but I’m struggling to forgive, much more forget
    Ofcourse I know what the bible says about forgiving so that my sins can also be forgiven me, I also know how it is to help me heal but we all heal differently and I hope to get there but until then i will do it at my own pace and ask God to help me
    Many thanks for sharing sis

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Koya, trust you’re well. I’m always being labeled as being unforgiving person and difficult. I simply do not forgive takes lots of time for me to let things go. I can forgive at the long run but hardly will I give you a chance to hurt me in that manner again. I feel like I’ve lost many friendships because of this. And then again I also feel like it’s a way of me protecting my peace and sanity.
    Stay safe Koya thank you for this piece

    Liked by 1 person

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