Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 02 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Peter Julian Eymard
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Does forgiving mean forgetting?

FORGIVING COUPLE

Shutterstock

Edifa - published on 11/12/19

Some say that to forgive is to forget the offense committed, but is that really the case?

There are many offenses that just can’t be forgotten. You can’t ask the victims of an attack or the parents of a murdered child to forget the harm they’ve been done or forget the perpetrator. It’s normal—and healthy—that they remember what they’ve experienced, or even that they demand not to let the events they were victims of be forgotten. In certain cases, we speak of “the duty of remembrance.” So does that means there are offenses that can’t be forgiven?

Must we forget in order to sincerely forgive?

To forget a harm done to us isn’t up to us. We can’t decide to just erase what we want when we want. We’ve all experienced this: there are certain wounds, serious or slight, that we’d like to forget but which remain alive in the memory. And when we truly desire to forgive those who have hurt us, this inability to forget troubles and surprises us: “If I haven’t forgotten, it’s because I haven’t really forgiven.” So what then? Are we incapable of sincere forgiveness when our memory refuses to wipe the slate clean?

“The Resurrection is not forgetting about the Passion,” as the French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger once said. In the same way, forgiveness is not forgetting the offense. “Many think the remembrance of an offense is a sign that they haven’t forgiven. But it’s not possible to forget an event that has hurt us. Remembrance arises from the memory, forgiveness from a deep will. They’re not the same thing.”

What’s true of forgiveness offered to another is also true of the forgiveness we owe ourselves. For, indeed, we don’t always think we must forgive ourselves. Too often we turn thoughts of remorse and regret over and over in our minds: we’re upset with ourselves for not meeting the mark, for not living up to our word, for having committed an error, or even a major offence with consequences. If our past keeps us from living in peace, of being all we can be, it’s a sign that we need to forgive, both ourselves and others.

In order to forgive, we must remember

The process of forgiveness doesn’t consist in denying the hurt, of keeping it buried away as deeply as possible. On the contrary, the path to forgiveness is first a path of truth, and therefore, of bringing things to the light of day. In order to forgive, we must begin by being conscious of having been offended. But what good is it to bring up seemingly forgotten wounds? Because, as long as they haven’t been forgiven, they will be fester and poison our lives. How many ancient wounds continue to upset family relationships even when we thought they were dead and buried?

Forgiveness helps the memory to heal by grounding it in peace. The memory of an offense received then turns from a pathway of death and turmoil into a pathway of life and blessing. Forgiveness, truly, is resurrection: the passage from death to life. The risen Jesus makes us capable of this journey; He who asks us to forgive “seventy-seven times seven,” that is, endlessly.

Let us not be afraid to ask the Holy Spirit to make all the offenses we need to forgive rise up in our minds. Christ rose again with all his scars, and we bear within ourselves the scars of our past, too. But they are no longer the signs of burden, of condemnation: they can become the signs of healing and salvation.

Christine Ponsard


KŁÓTNIE O NIC

Read more:
What did Jesus say about forgiveness?


MARRIAGE,FIGHT

Read more:
Why it can be so hard to ask for forgiveness

Tags:
RelationshipsSpiritual Life
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
2
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
3
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
4
JEDZENIE
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
5
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
6
CARLO ACUTIS
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
7
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
See More