Forgive and forget

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website (  She owns The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service. Laura is married and the mother of two middle school age children.

By Laura K. Silver

When my kids were little, I taught them to say “I’m sorry” if they hurt someone or did something wrong.  Somehow along the way, I also taught them to accept an apology.  They learned to say “it’s okay.”  As they are getting older, though, it’s time to rethink this.

“It’s okay” suggests that what happened is fine with them, that it was a mistake and they’ll get over it.  When they are little, things tend to happen more by accident or misunderstanding.  In that case, “it’s okay” seems reasonable.  But as kids get older, acts are sometimes intentional and “it’s okay” doesn’t cut it. 

My daughter and I recently dealt with this issue. Someone had hurt her feelings and she was upset–very upset.  I asked her what she usually said when someone apologized.

“It’s okay,” she told me.  I watched the light turn on, “But this isn’t okay,” she confirmed.  “Then don’t say it is,” I told her.  In the end, we decided that, “I accept your apology” was a much better phrase to use going forward.  It allowed her to forgive, but let the person know not to try that again.


I have a similar problem with “forgive and forget.”  As post-Holocaust Jews, our charge is to remember.  We believe that those who forget history are destined to repeat it.  One of our missions is to do everything we can to keep the stories alive and told and shared.  We may or may not forgive, but we always remember.

The same can be said on an individual level too.  Kids should be taught to forgive because forgiveness is in their best interest.  It allows them to let go of anger and channel their energies elsewhere.  

But forgetting is a whole different story.  Kids should not be encouraged to forget.  They should be taught to remember–remember who hurt them, who threatened them, who treated them poorly.  These are people to avoid.  They should also remember who made them laugh, who gave them a hug, who smiled when they needed it.  Because, in the end, those are the people we want surrounding our kids–now and in the future. 


Let’s not forget that.