Why ‘Forgive and Forget’ is Not Always the Wisest Path

How fierce, outer, engaged forgiveness can complement the inner forgiveness the mindfulness community so often emphasizes.

Adobe Stock/ Tanya

Let’s talk about forgiveness. 

I’ve been a practitioner and teacher of mindfulness for over 30 years. In my experience, much of what is taught about forgiveness creates a false division. We tend to emphasize the tender-inner-reflective processes of “forgive and forget” forgiveness, almost to the exclusion of outer “remember and engage” forgiveness—what, with a bow to Kristin Neff, I call “fierce” forgiveness. Neff is a mindful self-compassion pioneer and associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She enhanced the profoundly beneficial practices of tender self-compassion with what she calls “fierce self-compassion.” In this article, I encourage all of us to do the same with our forgiveness practice, embracing “fierce forgiveness,” and ultimately embodying a radical, both/and forgiveness practice.

Rachael Denhollander, one of the hundreds of gymnasts abused by sports osteopath Larry Nassar, exquisitely embodies the grace and power of combining tender and fierce forgiveness to create real, robust, radical forgiveness. She says “I release bitterness and anger and a desire for personal vengeance. It does not mean that I minimize or mitigate or excuse what he has done. It does not mean that I pursue justice on…