Friday, September 11, 2009

"Forgive and Forget"

Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography
The adage "forgive and forget" could not be more accurate; one cannot forgive someone without essentially forgetting much of the pain from the transgression being forgiven. I have always marveled at people who could "forgive and forget" for the adage in my family has always been "Forgive but never forget."

I've been mulling this over lately with members of my family, essentially calling our version of the phrase into question. Gifted with very good memories, we don't forget much. As is typical, the thing remembered, whether big or small, is logged in a wrinkle in our brains where it lays dormant, waiting for the moment of necessary recall to strike. However, does that mean that I am incapable of forgiving anyone?

I can let things go, get passed certain frustrations or pains, get on with my life and be happy, but that doesn't mean I have forgotten the disappointment in someone or the pain they've caused. Sure, it's easier to cut someone directly out of your life cold turkey, getting a rare embarrassing Christmas card from them once a year, the ones you throw away after reading perfunctorily. But that isn't forgiveness, that's ignoring them. You still feel the twinge of sadness or anger that the offense has left behind, you've just moved on. That is not what this whole forgiveness concept is about.

I hear people all the time who are good friends with ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, saying they have forgiven them for the cheating and lying, etc., that they hang out and have a great friendship. Perhaps I'm too old, set in my ways, or immature, but that makes no sense to me. Maybe they're lying, and at moments the same sting of hurt boils up, though now that they're "friends" they can't do much but ignore it. It all seems like they are deluding themselves. Maybe it's just easier to say you've forgiven the wrongdoer, to ease the other person's guilt and to end the discussion, at least temporarily. I have definitely seen those same people go through bouts of jealousy and rage for other "new offenses", emotions only heightened by the memory of the past let-downs. It's all so very confusing.

Either way, as I've stated above, I'm not good at forgiveness. Mention a past hurt and the ache of disappointment will swell once again, though thankfully not to the level of the original moment, but still. So, perhaps another adage is more correct: Time heals all wounds. Well, I don't think it heals, it just puts a lot of new memories in to fill the gaps and soften the shock and power of the bad ones.

Anyway, this is what I've been thinking about. So if you've done something wrong to me and I say I've forgiven you, I'm probably just trying to make you feel better. Sorry, I'm trying.


  1. Man, I feel the same way, especially towards ex's. My brain cannot compute the idea of stepping back down a few levels to a casual "friendship" after the intimacy and all the ups and downs of a real relationship.

    I think that even for people who say it "works" for them, at least one of them still has lingering feelings and is slowly trying to see if things can rise back up to the way they were.

  2. time wounds all heals.

    i too struggle with forgiveness.


  3. Perhaps the expression should be "forget and forgive". And it's not that marvelous. How easy to forgive past transgressions when they are no longer memories.

    True forgiveness is far more difficult. To accept the pain, acknowledge it, and overcome your base emotions to the extent that you can forgive your transgressor... can't say as I've ever managed it.