Mental Health – Forgive or Forget

“If you can’t forgive and forget, then pick one and do it …” Jim Brault

I have a confession to make. I know we don’t know each other very well yet, but I need to make this admission publicly. I WAS the queen of grudges. I do believe that I held the world’s record for longest resentment time by a human being. As a highly sensitive person (a topic for another day), for most of my life I took everything personally. Which means if you hurt my feelings, and that used to happen quite often, I would RARELY “just get over it.”

But then I became a mental health counselor, and learned that unforgiveness can keep our bodies and brains in a constant state of high alert and lead to numerous unhealthy results. For example, I used to nurse and replay a hurt over and over in my head, which fueled my negative emotions and burned the event and pain even deeper in my neurological pathways. This is called rumination. And when we ruminate our harmful emotions become even more amplified. The words or incident would morph into something far worse and I would end up berating myself through negative self-talk. Any of this sound familiar?

I had even gotten to the point where I was having memory problems. When we are continually stressed, and we refuse to forgive (or forget), cortisol causes our memory center, the hippocampus, to atrophy. My body was trying to tell me that my unforgiveness was keeping me chained to the wrongdoer, who most likely was oblivious to my bitterness. My destructive thoughts were detrimental to me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My hope for you is that you can begin to forgive. Some transgressions may take a long time to be fully absolved. Forgiveness is a process, and the deeper the hurt, the longer the healing may take. It’s not so much forgive and forget, as it is CHOOSING to remember it less and less. Even better, would be choosing to remember that the foundation of the Christian faith is grace, receiving it and extending it to others. I am happy to report that I have been in resentment recovery for a while now, but I have to work at it every day.

Until next time…Lisa
By: Lisa Philippart, Licensed Professional Counselor