Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (2022)

Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (1)

by Andrea Blundell

Who hasn’t at some point advised a friend or loved one to just ‘forgive and forget’?

And yet when it’s our turn to be the forgiver, it can be a different story.

Why is it that forgiveness is so much easier said than done?

Do we have to forgive others?

Yes, research shows that forgiveness has a lot of benefits. For example, a study on female survivors of emotionally abusive relationships found that ‘forgiveness therapy’ led to less anxiety and depression, better decision making, and a greater ability to manage emotions.

But sometimes what we want to forgive really is a big ask.

Difficult things can happen, and in such cases it’s best not to be hard on yourself if you can’t move on and forgive. There is no rule that we have to forgive everyone. Sometimes the best we can do is work to find acceptance, and seek the help of a professional if that is a struggle.

But other times we can’t forgive because we simply have yet to recognise the pattern or the self-deception we are stuck in that is stopping us from letting go.

12 Reasons You Can’t Forgive and Forget

See if one of the reasons below is holding you back from forgiving and forgetting for once and for all.

(Video) How To Forgive When You Can’t (Or Shouldn’t) Forget

1) You aren’t being honest with yourself about the real cause of your hurt.

We can convince ourselves we are mad at someone for one thing, when really we are upset about something entirely different. We won’t forgive a sibling for not coming to our party, when really we are secretly furious they insinuated our marriage wouldn’t last.

The first one is easier to be mad about, but to forgivewe have to admit what we really need to let go of.

Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (2)

2) You’ve attached your current upset to bigger upsets from the past.

When someone does something that hurts us it can trigger older, deeper pains.

Without realising it we can engage in the ‘snowball affect’. We unconsciously layer the new hurt to the old hurt, until we are facing something too big and overwhelming to forgive and forget.

For example, if our partner leaves us, we can experiencefeelings of rejection that can pile on top of unresolved experiences of abandonment from childhood. Soon enough we think we have to forgive our partner for thinking we aren’t worthy of love. When really all they did was leave an adult relationship that was no longer serving a positive purpose.

That’s why therapy is so wonderful at helping us forgive. It can help us separate past hurts from present hurts, as well as stop us recreating patterns of pain that put us in a position of needing to forgive in the first place.

3) You have mistaken forgiving someone with accepting what they did.

Forgiving someone involves finding at least a modicum of compassion for the other party and their choices. It means allowing yourself to process and heal the hurt their actions have caused you.

This does not, however, mean that you condone what they did. You can disagree with their actions and still let go of your hurt.

Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (3)

(Video) How To Move On, Let Go & Leave Your Past in The Past (Powerful Speech)

4) You are scared that if you forgive someone you’ll be made vulnerable.

Feeling angry can make us feel ‘tough’, and can be like an armour keeping away more hurt.

But not forgiving someone leaves us replaying a painful situation in our mind until it erodes our sense of worth. This actually leave us more vulnerable in the long run.

Think of the last time you were furious with someone. How did you feel when you saw them? In all likelihood you felt threatened and very shaken.

But then think of how you felt years later, when all was water under the bridge, and you had let go or resentment. Did they then have any power over you at all?

5) You are addicted to the benefits of having a grievance.

Not forgiving someone allows us to feel sorry for ourselves, and to gain the attention of others for what has happened to us. That attention can be like a drug we want more of to make ourselves feel better and wanted.

Forgiveness requires being able to let go of our victimhood and realise that we are ready for the better benefits of moving on. It means being ready to feel powerful and choose good things for ourselves.

6) You think that to forgive someone you have to talk to them.

Forgiveness is about you, and how you feel about something and someone, not how they react to how you feel.

(Video) Aretha Franklin - Willing To Forgive (Official Music Video)

The other person doesn’t have to know anything about your decision. In fact if we want forgiveness to involve a confrontation, we often aren’t ready to forgive at all, but are still looking for more drama.

7) You are scared of the emotions that might rise up if you try to forgive.

Forgiveness can be similar to the process of grieving, full of ups and downs.

But repressing sadness and rage has long-term effects that can be even more difficult to deal with. So it is definitely a case of the sooner you allow your feelings out and start letting go the better.

8) You don’t trust that if you forgive someone they will forgive you back.

Forgiveness is not a guaranteed two-way street. Often, by letting go of something, we do naturally affect others around us, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way.

And if we think that we are forgiving the other person ‘for their sake’, then it is not really forgiveness at all. It’s a form of control that puts you in the place of superiority, rather than the place of compassion true forgiveness requires.

Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (5)

9) You need to forgive yourself first.

Forgiving the other person usually entails taking responsibility for our part of what happened.

If, for example, our child gets in trouble with the law, we might be scared to forgive him, as it would mean we’d have to forgive ourselves for perhaps not being as available to our child as he needed.

The wonderful thing is that when we do forgive ourselves for the choices we made that led us to be hurt by another? We often spontaneously forgive the other. Start with you and see what happens.

10) You think that if you forgive you have to forget.

Our experiences of being wronged or wounded in life show us our own values, and earn us our personal strength. If we try too hard to forget what happened we might find ourselves just repeating a similar painful scenario down the line.

(Video) The Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice (Official Video)

Forgive the other, and forget the pain with time, but hold on to those learnings.

11) You simply aren’t ready to forgive.

Although in an ideal world we’d just ‘decide’ to forgive someone, and then, voilà, we just let go and move on? The heart has its own timing. Again, if you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready, and we don’t have to ever forgive if it doesn’t feel right.

Keep focussing on ways to move forward and be good to yourself, and let the moment of forgiveness come of its own accord (or not).

12) You are trying to reach a destination that doesn’t exist.

Although in the western world we like to see forgiveness as a sort of destination we can reach with enough determination on our part, the truth is that forgiveness is a process.

It takes time, it has ups and downs, and it is a long-term commitment. Even if we do forgive, a few months down the line we can be triggered by something we see or hear, feel pain again, and have to recommit to forgiveness.

Having trouble forgiving someone and it’s bringing you down? We connect you with some of London’s highest rated therapists. Or use our booking site to connect with UK-wide registered therapists and online counsellors you can work with from any country.

Want to share you own experience of learning to forgive and forget with other readers? Use the comment box below. Note we do not provide professional therapy via comments, but are happy to answer questions about the article.

Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (6)Andrea Blundell is the editor and lead writer of this site. An ex screenwriter turned mental health writer who has penned thousands of articles, she has done training in person centred therapy and coaching.

Forgive and Forget Hard? 12 Reasons Why You Can't Move On (7)


Why can't I forgive and move on? ›

We unconsciously layer the new hurt to the old hurt, until we are facing something too big and overwhelming to forgive and forget. For example, if our partner leaves us, we can experience feelings of rejection that can pile on top of unresolved experiences of abandonment from childhood.

How do you forgive and forget when someone hurts you? ›

Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, and work to release them. Choose to forgive the person who's offended you. Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life.

Why is it so hard to forgive someone who hurt you? ›

Our internal sense of justice goes against the idea of forgiveness; instead, our instinctive reaction is exactly the opposite – we feel the need to make things even. That is what makes forgiveness so hard – it's contrary to our automatic reaction that comes from our deep belief of what's fair.

What does the Bible say about forgiving and forget? ›

In Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Why do I have a hard time letting go of things? ›

Some people have trouble letting go of their pain or other unpleasant emotions about their past because they think those feelings are part of their identity. In some ways, they may not know who they are without their pain. This makes it impossible for them to let go.

What to say to someone who hurt you deeply? ›

If you're hoping to salvage the relationship with the person who has hurt you, then here are some great conversation points to add in:
  1. “I care about you.”
  2. “I respect you.”
  3. “I want to fix our relationship.”
  4. “I want to move past this.”
  5. “I want to understand each other better.”
  6. “I want to be open with you.”
Feb 11, 2022

How do you become strong when someone hurts you emotionally? ›

They will help you develop some new techniques and keep you from reacting to new hurts in old ways.
  1. Recognize the offense for what it is. ...
  2. Resist the tendency to defend your position. ...
  3. Give up the need to be right. ...
  4. Recognize and apologize for anything you may have done to contribute to the situation. ...
  5. Respond, don't react.
Feb 2, 2016

What to do when you're hurting inside? ›

Nine Ways to Cope with Emotional Pain
  1. Find a New Hobby. ...
  2. Move Your Body. ...
  3. Don't Ruminate. ...
  4. Stop Telling the Story. ...
  5. Start Keeping a Journal. ...
  6. Cry. ...
  7. Open Yourself to Others, Let Them In. ...
  8. Make a List of What You're Thankful For.
Apr 6, 2016

What the Bible says about forgiveness and letting go? ›

1 John 1:9; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness." 4. Matthew 6:15; "But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Can you truly forgive without forgetting? ›

Forgiving is Not Forgetting

You can forgive someone for their offenses against you even if you can't forget. It seems flippant to tell someone to just forgive and let it go when emotional and/or physical trauma has been experienced by the hand of another person.

What does the Bible say about forgetting the past and moving forward? ›

Philippians 3:13-14

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What are the four stages of forgiveness? ›

4 Steps to Forgiveness
  • Uncover your anger.
  • Decide to forgive.
  • Work on forgiveness.
  • Release from emotional prison.
Mar 13, 2017

How do you let someone go emotionally? ›

How to let go of someone
  1. Recognize when it's time. Learning when it's time to let go is often the most difficult part of this process. ...
  2. Identify limiting beliefs. ...
  3. Change your story. ...
  4. Stop the blame game. ...
  5. Embrace the “F” word. ...
  6. Master your emotions. ...
  7. Practice empathy. ...
  8. Adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Can you forgive someone and still not want to be around them? ›

Forgiveness doesn't mean you're obligated to stay in a relationship or marriage with someone who has destroyed the foundation of everything you've built. Forgiveness doesn't mean you keep a close friendship with the person who betrayed you.

How do I heal myself emotionally? ›

Tips for You As You Heal
  1. Practice self-compassion—you're not broken. ...
  2. Don't go it alone. ...
  3. You may not like the pain that you're in, but maybe you're afraid to work on emotional healing because you're afraid of what you might find in the process. ...
  4. Journaling is often suggested—and for good reason.
Jan 31, 2022

Why does the past still hurt? ›

Why memories hurt. When an experience is recorded as a memory, it goes through the emotional and cognitive filters, assumptions and interpretations of the person. This is one of the reasons why different people can have quite different recollections of the same event.

How do you detach from someone you love deeply? ›

How to let go of someone you love
  1. Identify the reason. Ask yourself why you're now deciding to detach from the relationship. ...
  2. Release your emotions. ...
  3. Don't react, respond. ...
  4. Start small. ...
  5. Keep a journal. ...
  6. Meditate. ...
  7. Be patient with yourself. ...
  8. Look forward.

How do you let go of someone you can't be with? ›

How to Let Go of Someone (Because Sometimes That's What's Best)
  1. 10 Ways to Let Go of Someone.
  2. Decide Whether the Relationship Is Worth It. ...
  3. Have a Conversation. ...
  4. Cut Off Contact. ...
  5. Accept That You're Only in Control of Your Own Actions. ...
  6. Lean on Friends and Family. ...
  7. Trust the Process. ...
  8. Prioritize Self-Care.
Aug 19, 2022

How do you let go when you don't want to? ›

15 Tips for Letting Go of a Relationship That Is Not Healthy
  1. Recognize the Problem. Awareness is the first step. ...
  2. Allow Yourself to Feel. Find a Therapist. ...
  3. Discover the Lesson. ...
  4. Create Separation. ...
  5. Let Go of the Mementos. ...
  6. Take Off Your Love Goggles. ...
  7. Compose a Letter to Your Ex. ...
  8. Focus On Empowering Yourself.
Aug 29, 2016

What does it mean when you can't let go of someone? ›

For some reason, you cannot let this person go. Letting them go would mean that you would allow yourself to forget about the impact they made on your life. Letting them go would mean that part of your life that you held onto so dearly would no longer exist.

How do you make someone realize they hurt you? ›

The Most Productive Way To Tell Someone They've Hurt You
  1. Organize Your Thoughts First. ...
  2. Give Them a Heads Up Before You Talk. ...
  3. Consider Your Environment. ...
  4. Try A Three-Part Statement Approach. ...
  5. Don't Be Afraid To Take A Break.
Dec 31, 2015

How do you make him feel guilty for hurting you? ›

If you want to make a guy feel sorry, try letting him know that he's hurt you, since he might not have thought about things from your perspective. When you tell him how you feel, try to focus on your own emotions, so you don't sound like you're accusing him.

What do you do when someone hurts you and doesn't care? ›

If the person knows we are being hurt and doesn't care, the best is to forgive (to not feel pressured or guilty if we do care about this person), but also to keep distance in order to avoid future problems. Also, we must make sure we are communicating our concern in a clear and honest way.

How do you truly forgive and forget? ›

Once you feel ready to forgive, you can take a few additional steps to make sure you're really ready.
  1. Talk through your feelings. Before you can forgive someone, you'll want to make sure you can put your feelings about what happened into words. ...
  2. Find the bright side. ...
  3. Forgive smaller things first. ...
  4. Forgive yourself.
Apr 27, 2020

What does the Bible say about forgiving someone who has hurt you? ›

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.

Should you forgive someone who hurt you? ›

While forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean reconciling with the person who hurt you, Luskin says, it's especially important in the relationships you want to keep. “I think our culture has focused in the other direction, which is that forgiveness is most important around relationships that you don't want to keep.


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