We Have to Forgive, But Do We Have to Forget?

Forgiveness is a key part of the Gospel message. Not only does God forgives us through Christ, but we are to forgive others as God forgives us. This is difficult to put into practice, but forgiveness is good for us – spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

We know the old phrase, ‘Forgive and forget,’ but is forgetting really part of the process of forgiveness? Recently, a listener called in to Go Ask Your Father™ to ask Monsignor Stuart Swetland this question.

Someone in her life hurt her deeply, and she no longer wants to spend time with that person. But she is being told that she needs to forgive and forget – to act like the hurt never happened. Does she need to continue to see this person to prove that she has forgiven them? Msgr. Swetland responded:

“Not necessarily. In most societies, even before the time of Christ, someone who commits a serious offense is imprisoned. They are separated from society, and there is a reason they are separated from society. One of the main reasons is to defend society against their wickedness, but part of it is to allow them to make restitution in serving time where they are separated from others. And that’s not necessarily an unjust or unkind thing.

So we’re not required to immediately want to hang around with someone that has hurt us badly. And I’m always hesitant to affirm the ‘forgive and forget’ thing, because sometimes it’s not appropriate to forget.

For example, when I was in the military I was in charge of the security clearances on my ship. Making sure the right person had the right security clearance to access certain secrets on the ship. If someone showed carelessness about their handling of secret or top secret material, in certain circumstances they could be forgiven. But as the secret control officer on the ship, I would not forget that they are a security liability, and I would be reticent to trust them with other secret or top secret material.

So, it is sometimes appropriate for the safety and the common good that we remember people’s weaknesses so that we don’t double-up mistakes.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

Go Ask Your Father airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.