“Forgive and forget,” this was a common phrase I would hear growing up. That, in order to truly know that you have forgiven another person, you need to have forgotten the anger and the crime committed against you. Most importantly, it was the thing good people did. I wanted to be a good person.
Eventually, I realized that sometimes you just have to forgive even if you can’t totally forget. Or, better yet, that forgetting is a gift and a grace from God. There were days when I prayed so hard, I thought my heart would stop from all my longing, “Lord, please let me forget. Please wipe away my memory. Please let me move on with life without this memory.”
The brain is such a curious thing. As I was with friends yesterday, they mentioned one time we went on a trip. I happily recalled the trip, and yet had a feeling that I was forgetting something, an inconsistency in the memory. One friend pointed out that so-and-so was also on that trip– someone whom I had cut out of my life.
I was more amazed by the fact that the memory seemed intact. I still remembered the food, the smells, the seating arrangement. But with this person completely cut out of the memory. All that was left was this strange feeling that there was someone else in that day trip.
The brain really has funny ways of helping us cope.
In any case, when this was brought up, I could laugh it off. In the past, I would feel so bad for days about remembering anything related to that person. I remain perplexed with how my memory had re-written itself yesterday. There are so many ways that our selves try to cope with the difficulties of life and of traumatic situations that maybe it will take a whole person’s lifetime just to have a glimpse of what the human mind is truly like. Perhaps, my prayer was answered in a slow, incremental process of retaining the essential happy memories.
I have a long way to go, but at least for the past two years, I’ve learned so much about what forgiveness is like and how we can easily enclose and choke ourselves when we choose not to forgive. I had to move on because of the realization that life will pass me by, and that wonderful opportunities will go unnoticed simply because I am too caught up in the thought of retribution.
I can’t say that I’ve completely forgiven– to the point that I can befriend that person again. I’m not sure if that’s part of the equation even… I don’t want it to be.
For now, it’s enough that I don’t want to harm those who have hurt me. Eventually, I might actually get around to actually hoping for their authentic happiness.
So if you ask me– forgiving is possible without forgetting. I think that’s part of the point, otherwise we fall into the same trap again.