Forgive and forget or forgive and repress?

Toxic forgiveness, what is it and why is it so damaging to mental health?


Toxic forgiveness is an unhealthy coping mechanism that people use to avoid conflict, pretending to be unharmed by the actions or words of others. They forgive the offence and “move on” without acknowledging the pain it has caused or holding the offender accountable for the action or words that have caused offence. 

The reason I find most people tend to do this is to “keep the peace”.  

From a young age many of us have heard such phrases, we have been encouraged to “forgive and forget, just move on it is not worth the hassle”. How often have you heard such phrases when voicing your upset caused by others?

The thing is we don’t forget, unless our feelings are heard, we repress.  Repression feelings in this instance can lead to resentment and trust me resentment is a whopper of an emotion to hold. Until released, resentment builds and manifests into other unpleasant feelings. So for me to forgive and forget is really forgiving and repressing.  

We must always hold space for our pain, but if you don’t feel you can do this with the person who caused you pain, speak to someone who has the capacity to hold that space for you. Your feelings are valid and you too are worth being held. 
Personally, I feel, these statements are simply a means to avoid conflict. Avoidance can be extremely damaging to our self-esteem and self-worth, causing a multitude of issues such as the need to people please, agree to things we don’t want to do and even live a life that does not align with our values. We live outside our authentic self. When we continue to put the needs of others before our own needs we are silently telling ourselves, they are worth more than us, and their feelings are more valid and valued than mine. It is ok that they hurt me.  

It is not ok. Your feelings too are valid. People pleasing is not healthy for your mental health or your relationships. 
These phrases can also be detrimental to our ability to communicate in a healthy manner, therefore rather than being able to communicate assertively we form a passive, or passive-aggressive communication style – and all to keep the peace? Let’s be clear, keeping the peace of others is only starting an internal war with yourself.  
The next time someone causes you upset or pain, find it within yourself to address the feeling. If you can’t do that with the person, try to address it with yourself, or talk it through with someone else. Take time to process your pain, heal, and retreat if necessary. You have the right to put up a boundary or take space and time to rebuild the relationship. If you need to show up differently in the relationship that’s ok too. However, during times of pain or distress, the most important person that you show up for is yourself. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Newtownabbey BT36 & BT37
Written by Ashleigh Duncan, Counsellor MBACP
Newtownabbey BT36 & BT37

Ashleigh Duncan Counsellor MBACP
Owner and founder of AD Counselling and Wellness, Newtownabbey and Elements Wellness Studio. Published writer.

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