Forgive and Forget: What Does It Mean? Is It Dangerous?

Forgive and Forget 2Here is a syllogism for you:

Premise #1: To forget is to not remember in the sense of moving on and not letting the emotional effects of injustices bother us any more.

Premise #2: To forgive is to forget.

Conclusion: Therefore, when we forgive, we do not remember what happened to us, making us vulnerable to continued injustice.

Implication:

When we fail to remember what happened to us, this can be dangerous because we might let others again take advantage of us.

Because forgiveness might hasten our not remembering, forgiveness is dangerous.

What is wrong with the above argument?

In logic, we have just committed the fallacy of equivocation. By this we mean that there are two very different meanings of at least one word in the argument. The first use of the term “forget” in Premise #1 equates to “moving on” or “putting the injustice behind us.”

The second use of the term “forget” in the Conclusion of the syllogism equates to a kind of amnesia, a blotting out of what happened rather than a moving on from what happened.

Yes, when we forgive we forget (meaning #1) in that we move on.

No, when we forgive we do not forget (meaning #2) in that we can no longer remember anything of what happened, making us vulnerable to another’s continued injustice.

To forgive is to forget in a certain meaning of that term and given that meaning, to forgive is not dangerous, at least not in the sense of “dangerous” meant here.

Dr. Bob

6 thoughts on “Forgive and Forget: What Does It Mean? Is It Dangerous?

  1. Christine March 18, 2013 / 7:55 am

    For so many years I have been confused by this idea of “forgive and forget.” It seems so nice and at the same time would upset me because of the abuse that my spouse gave to me. I did not want to forget. I did not want to be vulnerable over and ove again to what he did. This little post packed so much into the explanation and kind of set me free now. I better understand what it means to forgive and forget. I was using the wrong meaning of “forget.”

    Like

    • Jonathan March 18, 2013 / 9:04 am

      I have shared this same concern, Christine. This post has been a big help. At least I know that when i forgive, I can forget and be at peace with that.

      Like

  2. Opel March 18, 2013 / 10:02 am

    We use expressions so superficially. This post helps to clarify the meaning of “forgive and forget” that has never to my knowledge ever been explained as clearly as this. I appreciate the careful thinking that went into this.

    Like

  3. Davy March 19, 2013 / 3:46 pm

    This is the best explanation of “forgive and forget” that I have ever seen. Your institute is invaluable as a world resource. I encourage you in the strongest possible way to persevere. You do much good in a troubled world.

    Like

  4. Amanda March 20, 2013 / 6:45 pm

    Bravo. I am so happy that this website exists. For those unaware of it, this organization also has a lively presence on Facebook.

    Like

  5. Matthew March 21, 2013 / 8:02 pm

    There is always more to learn. I am glad I found this post because it gives me confidence to go ahead and finally start to forgive my partner. I have been hesitant, but no more.

    Like

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