“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” John F. Kennedy
I grew up hearing “Forgive and forget” I’m now able to reformulate that entire concept, thank goodness.
We will all be wronged, hurt, disappointed, and be on the victim’s side of life at some point. Life is messy, and so are humans.
I curled up in a ball on the floor, woeful, and understanding what had happened would change my entire life. I held onto hateful pain and resentment like it was my shield; it was not; I was stuck in the healing process.
Time did not help me to get over the hurt that encompassed me; it was going through the process of grief that finally got me to acceptance. My life would be different, but it was my life, and I needed to choose to step forward.
I did not have to forget; I did not have to forgive; I had to move past what had happened and not let it continue to hold me
“Toxic forgiveness” refers to forgiving someone when you still feel hurt or haven’t gotten closure. This can cause trauma or even erode your mental health. But the idea that forgiveness may be toxic can seem confusing to our understanding of forgiveness. Forgiving someone on a spiritual level can mean accepting the error of humans; we are all humans, and none are perfect. However, if it’s personal and you still feel the pain, allow yourself time.
Feeling pressure to forgive without being ready is largely a product of how much moral squeeze our society places on forgiveness. After all, we’re told that the best way to get over a conflict is to forgive it and forget it. I say maybe not. If we burn our hands in the fire, do we forget? No. We learn. Sometimes we learn that being around someone that has purposefully hurt us can feel unsafe because it was.
If you are in a relationship where forgiving is something you do to smooth things over and the situation repeats, it is abusive. If you alter your behavior because you are frightened of how your partner will react, again, it’s abuse.
Toxic forgiveness is an unhealthy way people pretend to be unharmed or forget an offense to “keep the peace” or avoid being labeled “angry,” “scorned,” or someone who “holds onto a grudge.” We can get caught up in doing what is “right” and being a bigger person at our peril.
I have moved past more than one egregious incident that impacted my life and caused me nightmares and deep confusion, and sorrow. I was haunted by the pain I felt that I could be betrayed on such a level; this went on for months. I will not forgive the person who unashamedly caused pain to my family and me with no guilt or responsibility. That said person lied about their wrongdoing, gaslighting the situation. The harm and history are on them, not me. I will not forgive or forget, and I am okay with that. I will, however, keep my distance from that toxic, abusive relationship.
Pretending to forgive and forget is the opposite of genuine communication. You’re not giving the other person a chance to redeem themselves; thus, your relationship is built on dishonesty. One needs to take the time to process pain; whatever the process is, it must be real. If you are not ready, you are risking becoming resentful. Betraying yourself by not being genuine to either party.
Practicing sincere forgiveness starts with loving and accepting yourself. Give yourself time and space, and feel your truth. Taking introspection through reading, counseling, and honest friends that will support you in your process.
My Mantra: “Forgive at your own pace.”