Is Forgiving And Forgetting Actually A Toxic Way To Handle Conflict?

We all know the phrase "forgive and forget," right? It's what our parents and teachers told us to do when we got into a fight with a sibling or friend at school but does forgiving and forgetting actually work? It's a nice concept — forgiving a person for their wrongdoings and putting the past behind you — but unfortunately, it's not a foolproof concept. Sure, you may accept a person's apology and want to move forward with your relationship, but this form of conflict resolution isn't exactly as healthy as you'd think.


This may come as a surprise, given the whole idea of forgiving is to strengthen your relationship with a person, romantic or otherwise (per Mayo Clinic); however, it's the ease at which you forgive and forget someone's mistake or misbehavior that makes this practice problematic. So the question is, can you truly forgive and forget a person's wrongdoings ... and should you?

It's actually very toxic

Despite what your parents and teachers may have told you, forgiving and forgetting is actually a toxic way to handle conflict. This form of conflict resolution is referred to as toxic forgiveness — when a person pretends to be unhurt or bothered by a situation for the sake of the argument or relationship, Hindustan Times states. In other words, they apologized, and you accepted it, but at the end of the day, you're really not 100% over it. It's almost like putting a bandage over a broken bone — you covered up the problem, but it's still there.


Toxic forgiveness can be, well ... toxic to a relationship. If your partner, friend, or family member repeats the same pattern over and over again but continues to be forgiven, there's not a strong chance they'll ever quit that behavior. They'll start to understand they can keep wronging you, and you'll forgive them every time. Not to mention, you're left with the emotional burden of trying to keep up the charade that everything is fine. It's an unhealthy situation all around, but luckily, there are non-toxic methods to deal with conflict.

How to handle conflict in a healthy way

When it comes to handling issues between you and a partner, friend, or family member, it's important to check in with yourself first and see where your head's at. This means really assessing the issue at hand (what and how it happened, how it made you feel, etc.) to understand how you're feeling about it, not just how you WANT to feel about it. Then, it's time to decide what you're going to say and how. As much as you might want to scream at the person, you'll end up doing more harm than good, according to University of Washington.


Before the two of you sit down and talk, make sure you've given yourself an adequate amount of time to be upset. The key thing to remember is that you don't owe anyone a deadline on your decision. If you're unsure whether or not you're ready to excuse someone's words or actions, it probably means you aren't, and that's okay. It's better to take your time and really process your emotions than simply forgive and forget. Then, when you're ready to absolve the issue, don't just forgive — forgive and learn.