Whalechaser's Musings

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Forgive and Forget

Here's another essay I wrote while trying to make sense out of stuff that made no sense at the time. I am posting this particular topic because I have a dear friend who is struggling with some very serious hurt issues and while she may not be ready for forgiveness, maybe someone who reads this, needs to see it now and can benefit from it. I just feel the need to put it out there now.

When someone or something has hurt you or caused you embarrassment or financial loss many people say it is best forgive and forget. This is a very simple expression that deserves some looking into. So many questions come to mind while evaluating the course of action. One could ask, what about my loss or they have to pay for this or this is totally wrong and justice must be done. The process of forgiving is releasing claim to repayment and to resentment or vengeful feelings. When you have just experienced pain, forgive and forget is generally not the first response that comes to mind. Usually, it is something like…you’ll get yours!

Someone once remarked to me that they could forgive, but they couldn’t forget.
The hurt apparently went too deep.

They were really saying they were willing to let the person who caused the pain “go free”. No retribution was expected any longer. They are willing to free the “wrongdoer” who caused the pain, from the guilt and provide an opportunity for their progress. That was the forgive part. Then there was the forget part. They were also saying they wanted to hang on to that pain forever. They wanted to personalize it. They wanted to keep the loss alive by harboring resentment and ill feelings about the loss (not necessarily the person) and how painful it was to them. In the end, they were saying they wanted to suffer forever over this thing.

There is more than just forgiving in the thrust of the old adage. The idea of not harboring bad feelings toward our fellow man is good as far as it goes but there is much more to this simple statement. The forgetting part is probably more important than the forgiving part. If life truly is a microcosm of the feelings that we allow to surface, then our focus toward keeping those feelings as positive as possible is key for our emotional survival. Here is where the second half comes into play.

The quality of the life that we live is directly related to the feelings that we experience. Simply said: The more positive feelings we have, the better our quality of life. Our efforts can be focused in one of two areas to make this happen. The first is the elimination of negative feelings and the second is the creation of positive ones. My friend who could forgive but not forget had some serious work to do in the elimination of some very negative feelings. The forgetting part is even more difficult because many times we take possession of the thing. We make it our own. It becomes a part of us. If that has happened it is very difficult to “forget”. It is like “forgetting” that you have a left arm…not very likely.

The act of forgetting frees the wounded person to get on with life. The process of forgetting can take many turns. First, we must accept. One thing is certain, what is done is most certainly done. Look and see if there is some positive thing that can be associated with the incident. Find a way to grow as a result of it. When we become more as a result of life’s experiences, the mission is accomplished. We will be able to let go of the negative part of it. That is the forgetting part. The incident or event will never be forgotten but the negative impact that it has will be obliterated. The ability to go on and have a full life will be restored without the burden of negative feelings. After all, isn’t that what life is all about, feelings…positive feelings.

1 comment:

Goldenrod said...

You got a couple of good zingers in there, phrases I haven't heard put quite that way before.
"Releasing claim to repayment", "Wanted to suffer forever", and "Free ... to get on with life". Nicely done.