They say if you forgive and forget, you will live a happier life. And to some degree, it’s true—the air around you becomes lighter and less suffocating, like a clap of thunder shocking the summer heat so the heavens can cool the earth. You feel like you can finally move forward, now free from the overwhelming weight of lies, hurt, false words, and heavy hearts.
I seemingly abided by this statement growing up, often temporarily dismissing moments of anger with typical kid-like distractions. I forgive you for taking the last cookie from my snack pack at recess or for stealing my homework to copy down my hours of hard work in a matter of seconds. I forgive you for pulling my hair to keep me from turning down the volume on the TV and for ruining the perfect snow-covered path made by that last toboggan ride down the front yard hill. I held this mindset, out of mere instinct. I knew without actually knowing that the best way to move on was to forgive but never fully forget.
I still remember these memories like they were yesterday. They’re forever a part of my past, and in every case, no matter how traumatic they were at the time, have the uncanny ability to make me feel content. They’ve shaped me. They’re part of who I am. Forgive and don’t forget—that’s the true way of letting go.
Here’s a list of five reasons to go through life forgiving but never forgetting. When it comes down to it, we are all imperfect souls. Acknowledging the imperfections are what in the end make life just that much more perfect.
1. You learn from your past
I’m sure you grew up hearing, “You learn from your mistakes.” It’s the common notion that when you make a mistake, you admit it, deal with the consequences, and end up in the long run actually learning and focus on never making that same mistake again. We all make mistakes in life for this reason—to grow. That’s why when you cheat on that science test, talk about another girl behind her back, or simply don’t take a chance on something that you later regret, you must ultimately forgive yourself—after the necessary consequences, of course—and never fully forget. Pushed back into the dark recesses of your mind, the memories reappear when you need them most, providing a shadowed guardian angel to defend against falling into similar negative patterns.
2. Everything happens for a reason
Life knows its plan for you, whether you want to believe it or not. Each day has a mind of its own, but when all is said and done, when the dust settles and the sun sets, you always seem to find your way home. Although it may not seem like it now, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. He broke your heart? It was for a reason. You got laid off? It was for a reason. Every bit of every day is one step closer to where you need to be, even if that place appears a little murky at the time. The waters will clear and the light won’t burn out. So drive slowly over those bumps in the road, laugh at your hiccups that won’t go away, and fearlessly face the unexpected twists and turns of life that whip you around, bringing tears to your eyes. One day you’ll look back and it will all make sense. The first step is to accept, and acceptance only begins with letting go.
3. You can’t force things from your mind
The mind is very powerful. Normally, when something traumatic or out of the ordinary happens, your mind fixates on this memory, whether good or completely and utterly embarrassing. Like that time I thought I was cool enough to outrun a treadmill at full speed—I wasn’t, and I still feel the sting of the rug burn on my knees like it was yesterday. If the event left any kind of impression, it is there to stay. You just simply learn to look back and smile. So how, then, do you expect to forget something that was worth forgiving? Anything that warrants forgiveness must have had some importance in your life in the first place, and that right there is enough reason not to forget.
4. Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward
My boyfriend (now fiancé) once said this to me as he searched for rebuttals to my apprehensions about us getting back together. After over a year of healing from my vulnerable, completely smitten, girl-in-college heart torn to pieces on that one Sunday morning in November, I was finally beginning to feel whole again—feel like me, ready to move on and take on the world like I always try to do in the far too short hours of the day. And then, right on cue, this happened. I should’ve seen it coming. We graduated, both got jobs in the same city, and ended up living in the same apartment complex, all while trying to be friends and enjoy each other’s company without that giant, third-wheeling elephant in the room that kept appearing. (Fate, some may call it?) I knew I was fighting my feelings, but it was only to keep from getting hurt. Yet one evening, sitting there on the edge of his bed, listening to my fears and feelings of defeat as I contemplated throwing away everything I overcame, he said something that really struck a chord with my heart. “Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward.” His words temporarily froze me in a moment where I no longer had a refute, because he was right. You see, forgiveness is that—making peace with the past in the hope of journeying onward with a new and improved perspective on life, no matter how scary it may seem. You can’t ever truly let go of something until you come to terms with it in some way, shape, or form, accept it as part of your DNA, and finally forgive.
5. It allows you to be the bigger person
Even if it still hurts, even if it clearly wasn’t your fault, making the first move towards amity is always applauded. That’s why when someone asks for forgiveness, don’t question it—give it. Forgiving someone is the simple act of acknowledging that we are only human and we all make mistakes. We all have regrets and burdens to bear, so why not do yourself and the person at fault a favor and lighten the load just a little? Both anger and guilt can only weigh you down. Forgiving does not mean you’re a pushover, it simply means you’re pushing onward and being the bigger person, this time with a little bit more wisdom up your sleeve.