“Ask a Priest: Should We Forgive But Not Forget?”

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Q: Can you be friends again with a friend or lover who really hurt you in the past? If that person called or sent me a message, wanting to apologize or to be friends again, should I forgive and forget and be friends again? Or should I just forgive and not be friends like we used to in the past? -N.N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Forgiveness is a virtue Jesus asks us to practice. In the Our Father he bids us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness is how we pass on that gift of mercy that God gives us so many times. If someone has sent you an apology, then that would indicate he knows he did something wrong and has repented. We do the same thing when we go to confession — and God is willing to forgive us.

You will find that forgiveness takes a load off your shoulders. To not forgive is to keep a weight on your heart.

It’s another question as to whether friendships can resume as before. If someone did you a grave harm, then it might be prudent to be discreet in your dealings with them. For instance, if someone squandered money, you might think twice about lending to them again, especially if you have a financial obligation to other people. Or if someone divulged a secret, you might decide to not share sensitive information with that person for a while, until he has regained your trust.

Still, as a Christian, you should find it in your heart to forgive. If it’s difficult, ask Our Lord for the grace of a forgiving heart. And don’t worry if the bad feelings linger. The heart sometimes lags behind the will. You can make an act of forgiveness, but the pain of the wound might take longer to heal. That is understandable.

What is important is that you make that act of forgiveness. (See here for more reading.) I pray that you get the grace to forgive.

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