Can You Really Just Forgive and Forget?

The people we love don’t get a free pass to hurt us, it’s time to decide who gets to stay in your life and who doesn’t.

Unsplash | Tachina Lee

The idea that we should “forgive and forget” when people screw up isn’t the perfect solution our parents made it out to be. It’s easy to hold problematic people accountable for their behaviors when they’re practically acquaintances, but what happens when the people who’re closest to you do something that crosses the line? Does that mean you should automatically “forgive and forget” what happened?


Whether your bestie spilled your secrets to someone else, your partner cheated on you, or your parents invaded your space, it’s hard to look past the hurt these things cause—nor should you!


You’ve known these people for years—maybe all your life—but that doesn’t give them a free pass to hurt you or break your trust. For some, a sincere apology can go a long way to fixing the relationship, and for others all the apologies in the world wouldn’t mean shit.


Not everyone can be forgiven and not everyone should be forgotten.


So how do you figure out who to forgive and who to forget?


1. Get a grip on your rules of forgiveness


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In order to decide who to keep in your life and who to eject, you need to be crystal clear on what your grounds for forgiveness are. An easy way to do this is to contemplate two important questions:


1. When you remove your emotions from the situation, how do you REALLY feel about what they did?
2. How would you feel if they did this to someone you care about?

You might find yourself more willing to glaze over these answers if you’re really close to them, but the line between who to forgive and forget will be clearer the more honest you are.


The idea that you have to forgive people in order to move on is total B.S. because at the end of the day, forgiveness is for you. Forgiveness means making whatever decision will bring you comfort, it’s not your responsibility to provide that to someone else.


If your decision is still cloudy, ask yourself if the person who hurt you is actively seeking forgiveness. Controversial opinion: If they aren’t asking for it, you’re not obligated to give it.


Asking for forgiveness takes guts and it’s a move people can be too cowardly, or self absorbed, to take. It’s a sign that someone has fully acknowledged the mistake they’ve made and are actively putting in the effort to rectify it.


2. Sometimes it’s important to know how the people around you feel.


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You might have all your rules figured out, but love is blind. If you’re forgiving someone your support system thinks you should forget, it’s worth it to understand why they feel that way.


Depending on who it is, letting someone who should be forgotten back into your life can affect more than just you. Just because you can’t see the mental anguish or the stress this person is putting on you, doesn’t mean your support system can’t. It can be extremely hard to have someone’s back when they refuse to see the red flags in front of them.


I get it, they don’t have the final say in what happens between you and this person, and their opinion shouldn’t be the make or break on what you decide, however you should at least consider their thoughts. Afterall, they have your best interests at heart and just want what’s best for you.


3. Maybe forgetting is a bit extreme, but if you cut them off, STICK to it!


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Don’t say you’ll cut them off and allow them to crawl back into your life. If they haven’t learned from their mistakes, they don’t deserve the relationship you shared. You’re not denying them entry into your life because “they don’t deserve it”, you’re not letting them back in because they haven’t earned it.


Forgiving and forgetting can definitely coexist. You can absolutely forgive someone and still never want to see them again. There’s closure that comes with forgiveness, in whatever shape that takes, but that doesn’t have to be the only source of relief. If you decide on forgiveness and find you can’t really look at this person in the same light, then cutting them loose can be a fresh start, not just for you, but for them too (not that they’ll necessarily see it that way).


Removing yourself from someone who’s hurt you allows you room to grow on your own. Red flags you may have been used to glazing over suddenly become clear as day the longer you’re apart from them. Although forgetting is certainly one way to go about dealing with the pain they’ve caused you, it can be extremely cathartic to remember as well.


Don’t remember so you can relive the pain, remember it and take the lesson out of it. Remind yourself why things didn’t work and be proud of how well you stuck to your boundaries. You can’t choose who hurts you, and it fucking sucks when it’s from the people you trust, but you can choose how you respond.



Sometimes you need to do what’s best for you.


With patience and guidance,

Draco Rose