Does True Forgiveness = Forgetting?

What Happens When You Discuss Divorce Online

Recently, in an online forum discussing how to file for divorce online, I shared that I’d chosen to forgive my wife for cheating. I added that forgiving her didn’t mean I had forgotten what she’d done. 

The response from one participant was quick, direct, and full of confidence: “Forgiven absolutely means forgotten. You need to study what forgiveness really means.”

Their confidence caused me to question my definition of forgiveness. Had I truly forgiven her if I hadn’t forgotten the betrayal? Does the fact that I remember the pain she caused me mean that I’m harboring resentment I don’t even recognize?

I took a minute to process my thoughts before responding, but when I did, I was just as confident: “To forgive DOES NOT require one to forget.”

“To forgive DOES NOT require one to forget.”

Forgiven but not Forgotten

I went on to give an example of a memory I have as a child where my brother hit me in the face. And while it’s been over 45 years since that day, I still remember the pain. I remember the shock. The sadness. The anger. I remember it all.

But here’s the thing; my brother is my best friend in the entire world. I love him and would do anything for him. So while I haven’t forgotten what he did, I’ve obviously forgiven him for doing it.

Case closed.


But since closing the case in my mind, I’ve continued to think about this interaction and have come to the conclusion that not only have I truly forgiven her, but that forgetting her infidelity would actually be a disservice to me.

Life isn’t all black and white, but there is one simple formula that is always true: E+R=O.

Event + Reaction = Outcome.

If I were able to somehow erase my ex wife’s infidelity (the Event) from my memory, there would be no Reaction, so everything I’ve been able to build and learn from that experience (the Outcome) would also be erased.

For example, as a direct result of her decision to cheat on me and our marriage, I launched, where we help people across the country get a divorce online.

And besides, I’m a much wiser person than I was back then. I’m more patient and willing to listen to others and accepting of their opinions and actions. Most importantly, regardless of what challenges the universe has in store, I now know I’ll survive.

While I’ve never felt such betrayal and anguish, I wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned – and the person I’ve become BECAUSE OF HER INFIDELITY – for anything. So while I don’t cherish the painful memories, they serve an important purpose and teach important lessons.

And as I often tell people going through similar situations, it never hurts any less, but it does hurt less often.