Mansi asks: Can you forgive without forgetting?

I have thought a lot about this question and I simply cannot bring myself to answer it any other way except saying, “No!”

With time, people say that wounds heal … emotional scars fade … and one grows out of the pain.

All of that may be true.

I may not feel the same amount of bitterness as the time a friend betrayed me, or another one took me for granted.

I may not cry my eyes out anymore about acidic words an acquaintance spewed over an insignificant remark.

I may not recall with each gory detail inappropriate acts committed by a drunken neighbor with a five-year-old cousin.

But I remember.

I remember all those people and all those events that kept me up at nights. That tugged painfully at my heart. That stabbed me over and over in my sleep.

I remember faces and voices … emotions and expressions … lies and deceit …

And without forgetting I cannot forgive.

13 forgiveforget1 Mansi asks: Can you forgive without forgetting?

Some people say there’s no point immersing oneself in negative energy.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I don’t often think about the miserable times I have experienced because of a so-called friend’s spiteful ways or a relative’s indiscretions, but somewhere in the back of my mind they’re lying in a semi-comatose state.

I have moved on with my life. I am happy most days.

I focus on the positive and look forward to the future.

But until I am able to selectively and permanently delete certain events from my memory, forgiveness won’t come to me.

I am not a “holier than thou” kind of person.

I won’t spit on your face, but I also won’t turn the other cheek.

I won’t seek revenge and I won’t wish you ill.

If you’re not worth it, I’ll dismiss you and move on, but if you’ve wronged me I will remember. Not that I make it a point to remember … but you know … I just can’t forget.

I can … well, to be really honest … I have pretended to forgive someone, but only on the surface … only to get some semblance of a closure … only to reconcile myself to the fact that no good can come out of remembering.

It’s a trick I play with my mind.

Forgiveness requires forgetting. And forgetting doesn’t come easily to me.

So, here I fulfill my promise of starting the new series: “Mansi asks:” where I tell you what I think, believe, or practice — you’ll get nothing but full disclosure. But in return I request you be honest, too.

Mansi asks: “Can you forgive without forgetting?”

Let’s discuss.

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  18 comments for “Mansi asks: Can you forgive without forgetting?

  1. October 6, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I cannot change my past. That includes forgetting. But I can work through my past and overcome. With overcoming and leaving in truly behind, in the past where it belongs, I can forgive.
    I got abused by my stepfather and no help from my mother as she delievered me to him. I have overcome. I havent fogotten but I truly have forgiven, including myself for thinking all was my fault, hence I am faulty. A sure sign of trauma are flasbacks and nightmares. Hence one cant forgive as all stays in the present. I am truly sorry as I know how hard it make life. Wish you the best!

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar
      October 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Dear Paula, Thank you for sharing a part of yourself and your journey. I believe we are all shaped by the experiences we have — good or bad. All one can hope for is a reconciliation with oneself. Thanks, again, for stopping by.

  2. October 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Hi Mansi, have been following your posts for sometime… Now that your “Mansi asks” series started i thought i better start leaving a reply… :)

    I read somewhere recently that it really does take a nerve to admit your admiration to a thing/person (more so in a virtual world). May be its true cos to be honest i look upto you with awe… n jus cos i look upto you – i couldnt leave a reply… Weird, hey na?!
    Am sure you are an inspiration but can inspiration intimidate you??! (quirky)

    yes, I would like to become like you someday… :)

    Anyway – leme come to the point… “Can i forgive without forgetting?” as you said i guess i have to forget the incident first – man! it will be TOUGH otherwise :/ :)

    P.S. I will surely drop in better comments from next time – cos amnt good at breaking the ice (i told you i was quirky) ;0

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar
      October 7, 2010 at 3:32 pm

      Dear Sulo, Thank you so much for commenting and for your gracious comments. I am just like you — another human being trying to make meaning of this life and my role in it. Thanks, again, for stopping by and participating in the new series.

      • October 9, 2010 at 8:44 am

        How sweet – that was my pleasure Mansi… and yes, that is why when i grow up i wish to be like you :)

  3. ucant-seemeNo Gravatar
    October 7, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Well, a nice thing to think about. I guess, you are right, we cant forgive without forgetting. Until and unless u erase the memories or just let go of what happened from ur conscious, u cant forgive. So, u need to forget before forgiving.
    (Although a bit of me says the otherwise, but I have not experienced it, will let u know if i do)

    • October 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm

      Thanks, Yogesh. I have seen similar reactions to this question on two different sites: Mahalo and BlogFrog. Have a look.

      The general consensus seems to be that people move on but don’t really forget. Thanks,again, for sharing your insights.

  4. October 7, 2010 at 6:20 am

    I have always said that I would forgive but never forget. However, it has not been that easy. No, I don’t forget and the pain happens to rear it’s ugly head from time to time and I must squeeze it down as to not take over my emotions and my actions. However, certain things are ‘triggers’ to painful situations in my life and I have reaized that you don’t really forgive permenantly. You forgive provisionally – Providing that person makes it a point to never do said thing again and accepts their wrong-doing. Forgiveness is a two way street, I guess.

    Like you, I am more apt to just move on with my life and leave the one who hurt me in the dust.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar
      October 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carrie. I love how you phrased it: “You forgive provisionally.” Yep … it’s true.

  5. October 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I honestly don’t think you can truly forgive without forgetting. Both are difficult but can be done in time. Forgetting to me means letting go completely. If you choose to not forget, then you are still holding on to bitterness, anger, & anything else a person’s actions might have made you feel at one point. Anytime those memories return, so will your feelings & the cycle will begin again. I haven’t mastered this or anything but I’m in the process of “forgetting & forgiving.”

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar
      October 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Anahid. As Carrie points out, there are triggers to painful situations, so truly forgetting is really more of a myth, unless someone has been blessed with a really bad memory. I suppose the sooner we realize that the bitterness, anger, resentment, or disappointment is not doing us any good, the faster we allow ourselves to heal and move on…

  6. October 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    This is such a great question. As a Christian I believe in my core I need to forgive. As a crazy human, that is a lot easier said than done.
    I know I have one instance where I was really hurt by my best friend as an adult and don’t think I have truly gotten over it. I think I have forgiven her but forgetting it seems impossible. Lots to chew on.

  7. ronnieNo Gravatar
    October 9, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Mansi, of course you can forgive without forgetting…unless you have Alzheimers or are a total simpleton!!! People who love you dearly will often say or do something that’s hurtful to you. You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. For example, people from other cultures or parts of the world have different customs and what-not, and might say or do something that offends you. You don’t have to agree, but you make allowances. I don’t believe we can live from one day to the next not being able to forgive our loved ones, friends, and collegues. Doesn’t mean we forget.

    Having said this, there are degrees of forgiveness. I think they range from total to not-at-all. How anyone could forgive a child abuser or an adult who allowed that child to be abused, I’ll never, never understand. I could never forgive someone who abused or murdered my child, or any of my loved ones, for that matter. They wouldn’t deserve my forgiveness. But an ignorant, off-handed, silly remark that hurt but once the culprit was advised it was hurtful and offered a heartfelt apology? Yes, I can forgive that. Nobody’s perfect. We live and, hopefully, learn. Of course, if the person never learns and continues the boorish behavior, they may have to go into the “lost-cause” category. At which point we stop forgiving!! Ain’t life wonderful!!

  8. October 9, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I can forgive but I won’t forget. The pain will fade, but the memory of the wrong committed will always remain.

  9. October 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I am with the others who say it is possible to forgive without forgetting, though again, it is very hard to do, depending the severity of the betrayal or hurtful actions.

    And “provisionally” is the best way to put it, too. I have a vivid memory of many things (and yet I forget important things, go figure) and those always inform how I act. I can forgive; I can move on and we might be able to have the same friendship that we had before.

    But my awareness is always there, keeping an eye out for signs that something like that is happening again, and I won’t be so slow to react next time. And it will always colour my perception of you in the future.

    Of course, I mean the generic “you” in all of that above. :)

  10. October 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    You have raised a question I too have pondered over for long…and my conclusion is ‘never’…I can’t forget the hurt, so can’t forgive.
    Am I happy with the aftermath of that hurt?…Yes, it has helped me know more about myself and the world.
    If there is no open discussion or desire to meet half way from both sides…it’s best to keep a distance so that the person is not a constant reminder…better for the heart, the head and health.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar
      October 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

      I agree with keeping a distance. But sometimes family members can’t be avoided … and heck, what are you going to do when someone in your own family has done something so egregious that you can’t bear to forgive them? It’s always hard…but I guess it’s experiences like these that help us mature…Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nalini.

  11. AnnelizeNo Gravatar
    February 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    It all depends on the situation. Sometimes its bettere not to forget, especially if its a person you got to face daily. That way you can be forewarned if you see the danger signs of the same thing happening again. Always forgive, rid yourself of the negative emotions that poisen you, but sometimes you musnt forget. You got to remember to protect yourself from the same thing happening again.

What’s your 0.02?