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The Difference between Forgiving and Forgetting

Updated on April 2, 2017
lifelovemystery profile image

Digital marketing professional with B2C and B2B experience in strategic marketing, lead generation, content marketing, SEO, SEM, and CRM.

I choose to forgive you

Forgiveness costs us nothing, and repays with peace.
Forgiveness costs us nothing, and repays with peace. | Source

Hurt Feelings Frequently Happen Because of a Misunderstanding

At some point in this life, we will be hurt by people that we love, live next, to or work within a professional environment. It is, unfortunately, the nature of people to say mean-spirited things when we are angry or emotional. It is impossible to take back unkind words, and an apology does not undo the damage that our words caused.

Emotional pain is different for everyone. Something that causes life-long pain for one person may not have the same impact on another person. As we mature, we choose how to handle emotional pain. I'm not referring to deep, scarring pain caused by a traumatic event. I'm talking about the day-to-day things that can happen when someone is careless or thoughtless in how they communicate with us.

It is entirely possible to perceive a message differently than what a person intended to communicate. This especially true with email because you don't know the person's mindset when they typed the message and hit the Send button. It is very easy to take written word out of context. People in relationships can break up over silly things because people choose not forgive. But we don't usually quit our job when we receive a sharply worded email from our boss. If a harsh email response is unusual, then the best way to respond to an email like that is consider the reasons behind it - before responding in kind.

Your boss is probably working on projects that you don't know about, yet there is much high-level visibility from his boss and others. If he is under deadlines and putting as much focus as possible on that project, then he will likely respond according to the job pressure and has limited time to answer your questions. More than likely, your boss did not intend to hurt your feelings or question your judgment.

Forgiveness can give you freedom from the pain you carry

Forgiveness does not mean that you should forget.
Forgiveness does not mean that you should forget. | Source

Children Get Their Feelings Hurt From Criticism

Children usually don’t have the emotional skills to interpret the reason that someone has been mean to them. However, they do understand a change in tone of voice, the seriousness of a facial expression or other body language. How a child responds to criticism, may follow them throughout their life.

If a child does not take criticism seriously, they might change the subject, walk away, or invite you to play a game. The child's goal is to anything to change the conversation, without further provocation. Children that are embarrassed when criticized or corrected may not react. They may be too ashamed to speak and are afraid of further reprisal. So, they say nothing because they want to avoid further confrontation.

Can I Help You?

Children respond to criticism differently.
Children respond to criticism differently. | Source

Sibling Rivalry is Common

Most children have a short attention span and after a day or two of sulking, may forget about the hurt feelings and begin playing with the friend or sibling that hurt them. If the problem is unresolved, their parents may respond, by telling them to stop whining, to hug it out, or to go play a game. Parents do not see the point of bickering, and they want it to stop.

Childhood rivalries among siblings can become tiresome for parents as their children compete for time and attention. I believe that most cases of sibling rivalry can be overcome by understanding the needs of individual children and teaching them to compromise. It is also to better to understand if one child is a bully and manipulator, or if one child is a bully, and the other is a manipulator. Sometimes it is the manipulator that is a bigger problem than the bully.

Careless Words Can Be Used As Weapons

As we get older, hurtful words take on a deeper substance. We learn how to use them as weapons. I don’t know anyone that hasn't said something that they don’t regret. I don’t know anyone that hasn't been hurt by careless words. As we get mature and our vocabulary and experiences grow, we learn to use words as weapons. We can use them to shut people down or raise people up. We can use words to educate, tear down or encourage.

Team Sports Help Children Work Together

School-age children can compete in a variety of ways to gain attention and awards. Children learn to focus their energy and play well together through team sports like soccer, softball. They also learn to focus on winning. There are other ways that children can earn badges, trophies, and attention. Groups like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H are organizations where children are taught new skills and give them a sense of belonging. Children in theses organizations learn to work as a team to accomplish similar goals. This also teaches them how critical thinking skills that will work as they mature.

Responding to Being Hurt

How do you respond when someone hurts your feelings?

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If You Hurt Someone, Ask Them To Forgive You

We don’t always choose or use the right words. If we deliberately choose to hurt someone with words, it is a reflection on our character. When this happens, both people become angry. If you recognize this behavior in yourself or the other person, ask for a time out. Take an hour or even a day to think about the conversation, and how you can approach the topic differently. If you are both calm, and you can both agree to disagree then you can move forward. However, if you used unkind words to demean or belittle the other person, you should start off by asking for forgiveness.

Don't Bury Your Pain


Should I Forgive or Forget?

There are likely other options, depending on the type of responses each of us has developed. As we mature the tools we use tend to change as we have less to prove and more to teach. But when someone hurts you deeply, it can hurt for a very long time. Feuds have started over very slight instances when people chose the wrong words and used the wrong tools.

The quote, “To Forgive or Forget” is very particular to me. People often don’t seek alternative ways to deal with the pain because they don't know how. Burying the incident, the words and the relationship is frequently the tool that people reach for and use the most. Instead of trying to reflect on why the words hurt so much, we put up an invisible, emotional wall as a way to deflect the negative behavior. Forgetting that someone hurt you never works. If there are lessons to be learned, then forgetting is the wrong option. Forgiving someone that doesn't deserve it, may be very difficult. However, forgiveness may be the biggest most inexpensive tool you will ever need.

Reasons for Unforgiveness

I choose not to forgive because;

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Do Not Carry the Burden of Unforgiveness

When someone hurts you and you choose to carry the pain, you have neither forgotten nor forgiven. Scripture tells us that forgiveness is a command, not an option. It truly is an act of spiritual obedience.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Those may seem like valid reasons, and yet holding on to unforgiveness is a weight that you alone carry. The person that harmed you may have put weight into the words, but you choose to carry it and it is a burden.

Set Yourself Free


How Many Times Shall I Forgive?

Forgiveness is an act of obedience. It is also a measure that will help heal broken hearts and wounded egos. To say the words, “I forgive” is a decision to let go. Forgiving someone has been an issue since the beginning of time.

Peter was a disciple of Jesus and something of a hot head. He was passionate about Christ and sometimes acted without thinking. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he acted impulsively and cut off the ear of a soldier that had come to arrest him. In the New Testament book of Matthew, Peter wanted to understand forgiveness, because forgiveness is not an easy thing to do.

"Matthew 18:21 When Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

The act of forgiving is unnatural. As people, we have emotions and memory. The memory of what someone did to hurt us, is something we hold onto. The problem with unforgiveness is that you are not causing any harm to the other person. Holding onto anger, bitterness and hatred only hurts you. When you learn to forgive someone, even if you have to say it 77 times, you set yourself free.

Arriving at the point of forgiveness can take years. But all those years, the burden has been carried by you, not the other person. The sooner you can arrive at the point of forgiveness, the sooner you set yourself free. You won't forget the memories, but you will heal from them.

Forgiveness is not a Feeling or Emotion

God understands the feeling of anger and he understands emotional pain. He also understands ethos and ego. He knew that the first time we mutter, “I forgive you” under our breath or in a prayer that we may not really mean it. But the first time you say those words, it is done. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is not an emotion. Forgiveness is an act of obedience that can set you free from the past. Do it for yourself. Do it for the person that hurt you.

© 2013 Michelle Orelup


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    • lifelovemystery profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Orelup 

      3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thank you Paula. I find that the sooner I forgive someone, the sooner I can move past the hurt and get on with my life. The person that caused the pain will likely never know how deeply they hurt us, but not forgiving them forces us to carry the burden. I lay it down, forgive them and move on. Life is too short. Cheers!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      3 years ago from Carson City

      Michelle.....A well-written Hub with an important & inspiring message. This encourages deep soul-searching. On a personal level, it has taken me a very long time to come to terms with how I genuinely feel about giving forgiveness. Like so many other things I deal with, I'll admit I probably "overthink" everything and consider all the ifs & buts & maybes. That's simply who I am & at this point in my life, I doubt I'm going to change drastically anytime soon!!

      Peace, Paula

    • lifelovemystery profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Orelup 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I think as people we get it twisted and think that people don't deserve forgiveness. But if that's true, then none of us are worthy of being forgiven. God's grace provided forgiveness as a way to connect, heal and move on. Thanks.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      "If there are lessons to be learned, then forgetting is the wrong option." Thanks for dealing with this issue. It is more difficult to forget when we have not forgiven. Good job!

    • lifelovemystery profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Orelup 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thank you CraftytotheCore. It sounds like you have raised your children to behave differently than the way you were raised. That will benefit them regardless of what happens. God bless.

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      6 years ago

      Great topic! When I was a child, I was often harshly criticized. So I became more thirsty for answers. When someone wronged me, I became overly eager to try to please them.

      Now that I have my own children, and I've been molded like clay out of a hurtful past, I know the difference between trying to seek acceptance and walking away with forgiveness to those that I mean nothing to.

      My daughter had a situation in school so I had the perfect opportunity to teach her about forgiveness. Today, she is at a play date at her friend's house. I'm so glad I was able to overcome what happened in my past, so that I can teach my children a healthy way to handle maturing relationships as they grow up.


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