I ran into a couple of quotes about forgiveness recently.


The first one is from Henry Ward Beecher:


“I can forgive but I cannot forget” is only a way of saying, “‘I will not forgive.” Forgiveness should be like a cancelled note – torn in two and burned up so that it can never be shown against one.

Okay, that makes sense. You know how the typical apology can go. You and your spouse have a fight. Finally, one or the other of you says, “Hey, I’m sorry.” The other one says, “Me, too.” You kiss and make up. Then 10 days later – or maybe 10 minutes later – you start bickering about the very same issue. Arrgh!


So what happened? Neither of you really enjoys arguing. You were both sincere when you said, “Sorry.” But the forgiveness period was as brief as a toddler’s attention span. Is it because you didn’t wipe it out of your memory bank and forget it?


Maybe. But psychiatrist Thomas Szasz warned:


“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive and never forget.”

Well, aren’t there some things we shouldn’t forget? If your teenage nephew borrows your car and spills his 20 ounce Big Gulp all over the interior, should you really forget about it? You accepted his heartfelt apology. But then again, can you ever really forgive him if every time you get in the driver’s seat, your hands stick to the steering wheel?


So which of those quotes is correct? Forgive and forget? Or forgive but don’t forget?


Personally? I think they’re both right!


But before I explain, let me say that the traditional method of “forgiveness” we’ve been using in the Western world just doesn’t work. It’s flawed.


It wasn’t until I was more fully immersed in Huna that I understood what true forgiveness is. I learned the forgiveness process the ancient Hawaiians used, which is called ho’oponopono. I now use this process every day myself, and I’ve taught it to literally thousands of students.


The word pono has no good translation in English. It’s the feeling of congruency and calmness, that everything feels right in our world. It’s like feeling so totally at peace with a person or situation that nothing needs to be said. That’s pono. And Ho’oponopono means to become doubly pono.


When you forgive others using ho’oponopono, you feel calm and clear about them. You are free to re-establish a relationship with them – or not, as you choose. But whichever you choose, you are totally cleansed of the junk – the resentment, anger, hurt – that previously clogged your system. You don’t end up with the tight-lipped, “Okay I can stand to be in the same room with you” type of forgiveness. Totally cleansed. Calm and clear. Free. Sound interesting?


Here are the steps of ho’oponopono that I use in my own life:


Give and Receive: In ho’oponopono, it’s not just about saying “I’m sorry.”  Instead we say, “I forgive you. Please forgive me too.” Can you sense the difference? Asking for and offering forgiveness is a much more active, committed, and vulnerable process.


Say What Needs Saying: Calmly and consciously, give each other the space to express what needs to be expressed without hiding or holding back. It can be scary sometimes. You might need lots of deep breaths.  But when you’ve both shared your thoughts and feelings, you’ll experience a sense of “I’ve said it all, and I’m done.”


Offer Love: I must be kidding, right? You’re supposed to offer loving energy to the person who has just wronged you?!? Yep. Part of the ho`oponopono process is to open your heart and acknowledge that the other person is doing the best that he or she can at the moment. Offer love and compassion.


A note: You can do this process in your imagination without the other person present.


But it’s the last part of the process that answers the “forget or not forget” issue. In Huna, it is believed that you forget the incident, but remember the learning.


We have others in our lives for a purpose: to learn and to grow. And a big part of that learning and growing comes when we make mistakes, crash into each other, or hurt one another. Haven’t you noticed that you learn and grow more from difficulties than easy times?


Within the ho’oponopono process, we emphasize extracting the learning from each difficult situation. We forgive each other and ourselves, release the negative emotions– yet we still absorb whatever lessons are available to us.


So the answer? Forgive, forget, and remember!


Dr. Matt


Photo Credit: Leyram Odacrem