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How to Forgive Without Forgetting

Gina could hear the frustration in her sister’s voice, mixed with incredulity and a dash of betrayal. “I don’t understand how you can stand to be around her! How can you forget what she was like growing up?”

“I haven’t forgotten what she was like,” Gina replied. “I’ve forgiven her for what she was like.” It wasn’t the first time Gina and her sister had replayed this conversation. It seemed to surface after major holidays. Patricia refused to engage in anything more than a yearly cursory visit while Gina made a point to spend time with their mother. Patricia clearly couldn’t stand to be around her mother for longer than was absolutely necessary, and she didn’t understand how Gina could. More than once, Patricia implied that Gina was taking sides against her and for their mother.

“Even if I could let go of the past, she’s still the same old Mom,” said Patricia, “negative, judgmental, and critical. She drives me nuts!”

“Once I forgave her,” Gina responded, “it took away a lot of her power to ‘drive me nuts.’ I’m not mad at her anymore over the past, so when she starts into that behavior now, I’m able to set really good boundaries.”

“How do you forgive someone who hasn’t asked for it?” Patricia asked.

“I can forgive her,” said Gina, “because it’s really my decision, not hers. I need to forgive her more than she wants to be forgiven. I just didn’t want to live with all that anger and bitterness inside anymore. The only way to let it go was to forgive.”

Some things cannot be mitigated. They cannot be fixed. They cannot be removed. They can only be forgiven. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It is a strategic, purposeful response to pain and injury — one that can be acted on even if you don’t feel like it. For some things, only the healing waters of forgiveness have the power to douse the flames of anger. Extending forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do in life. Yet, it brings you closer to the character of God.

SOURCE: Chapter 10: “Experiencing the Power of Forgiveness” in Every Woman’s Guide to Managing YourAnger by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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