The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”
Thomas S. Szasz
“Forgive” and “forget” are two words often used in the same context. The meaning is different but these words are often associated with each other. “Forgive and forget” is a phrase which is often used when someone is wronged by someone else. Forgiving someone is different than forgetting what happened but these words are not always used correctly..
Forgiving is an action to recover the angry feeling toward the person who offended you or did hurt you. This doesn’t mean you forget all these things but it is the first step to resume the normal relationship you had with this person before these things happened.
I see a major difference in the words forgive and forget. I believe it’s the give and the get that jumps out at me when I see the two words together. We give forgiveness but forgetting is a whole different ball of wax. We should get smart when someone does something bad to us. Something bad requires us to forgive that party and let by goners be by goners. Forgetting is our learning experience. Hopefully in the course of forgiving we learn something and then we can move to forget. Putting one’s self in the position that someone can harm you can be construed as a weakness. Being smart and having forethought before allowing anyone that type of power can help you avoid making these types of mistakes in future dealings with that person. That’s where the learning part comes around.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget. But it does mean that I am no longer reliving the pain, hurt and anger. It doesn’t mean that I excuse the behavior. However It does mean that I don’t judge the person, only the behavior. It doesn’t mean that I don’t protect myself from further abuse. But it does mean that I treat the person with respect and that I do not actively pursue actions that would cause them harm or shame.
Most people don’t realize that when you forgive, you’re doing yourself more good than you are the person you are forgiving. It’s liberating to forgive someone. When you forgive someone for a wrong doing, in essence, you are not telling them that what they did to you was OK. What you are doing, in reality, is freeing yourself to move on from it. When you don’t forgive the person who hurt you, it’s like you’re giving them control over your feelings. When you forgive them and move on from it, you release that control they have over you. It’s liberating, it really is.
When I began to get my life back on track, which I still derail it at times, I expected people to forgive and forget and never bring up my past. That was a very wrong expectation on my part. I should hope that they will forgive me in time, but today I hope they don’t forget. I also hope they don’t keep reminding me of it, but they should not forget, they should keep it in the corner of their mind. They should never forget what I’m capable of if I travel that path again. I they forget, they once again are vulnerable to the same hurt. Maybe it’s good for them to remind me of my stupid actions once in a while, not in anger, but in reflection. It keeps them in the forefront of my mind and reminds me of the debt I owe. It also helps me see the warning signs before the train wreck, it keeps the foolishness fresh, and reminds me how bad it really was, our minds have a tendency to only remember the good times, rarely the bad. I can never forget myself, either, I need the misery to remain fresh, to once in a while remind myself of where I’ve traveled and where I am now. They say the farther you are from a mistake the closer you are to making it again, I need it to remain close to my mistakes in my mind. I don’t need to dwell on it, but it is dangerous for me to forget them.
I still get angry, and I’m smart enough to know that even when it appears to be directed at other people, it’s really directed at myself. When I am offended, it is something inside of me that has triggered it, I didn’t get the response or my needs met, or I took it personal. There’s a Buddhist saying which I like, which is: Forgive, but don’t forget. What that means in this context is: if I’m angry, let it go. But don’t forget that the anger arises because there is still something in me that is not right: that is vulnerable, or inauthentic, or whatever it is that allowed me to be silent when I saw wrong, or to tacitly accept what I felt to be bad knowledge and bad practice. Anger is a fierce energy. It’s a response to something wrong. Misdirected, or suppressed, it can be damaging. But my task is to harness it productively. We cannot go through life taking offense over every little slight. Most people don’t mean to offend us, they simply don’t know how to please us.
I find that anger disappears when I make the change in myself that needs to be made. My resolution of anger is not forgiveness, but to take action. I feel anger when I am forcing myself to be “considerate” of someone who is speaking nonsense. That’s not compassion: that’s just my cowardice and avoidance. I also feel angry just from thoughts and memories in my head. I want to understand what that means for me: and take the necessary action. Make the necessary change. I need to Forgive myself but not forget that I owe a debt and one that should pay with some interest.
This is not to say that forgiveness requires the absence of all negative emotion. That must be mistaken. It does, however, require us to act in opposition to how those emotions would have us act. Surely we are hurt when a friend betrays our trust. This pain would have us no longer share the secrets of our hearts with them. If we choose to forgive, we continue to speak to them in confidence, despite the fact that our pain lingers and bids us not to. And how wonderful! The pain that wishes to silence us is itself silenced when our friend proves again to be worthy of all trust.
The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. This frees the forgiving one from the past. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not change (Matthew 5:44). Ideally, the offender will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known his decision to forgive.
In one sense, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively “delete” events from our memory. The Bible states that God does not “remember” our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). God is all-knowing. God knows that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, having forgiven us, He treats us as if the sin had not occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must “forgive and forget.” If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred. We remember the sin, but we live as if we did not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Forget is not mentioned.
Common sense (That is wisdom by the way), would dictate to be cautious with a person for a time. The bible says for us to be “gentle as doves and wise as serpents.” Trust has to be earned back. This means, I can forgive someone for wronging me every time he does. But that doesn’t mean that I have to allow myself to blindly stay in the position to be wronged. God isn’t raising any fools in us. And since we are our brother’s keeper, we are also to show them when they error.
You can forgive a rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake. It is folly, though, to pretend to yourself that a rattlesnake is not a rattlesnake. It is especially dumb when you find out the hard way that a rattlesnake is a rattlesnake and then you forget it is.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you forget who they seem to be. It is silly to trust a person to be someone you have not found them to be. But once you find out who they are — what they can be expected to do in this circumstance or that — then forgive them but trust them to be who they have shown you they are — and do not forget it.
Forgiving is an act of accepting a certain event that has taken place in your life. You choose to forgive the person fro what they have done and then you must choose to forgive yourself. You must forgive yourself for the hate the pain the tears that you have shed. When you truly forgive someone you must make sure that you are truly over the situation.
Forgetting is the act of removing a situation completely from your mind frame. Forgetting is something that is almost completely impossible.
Everything in your life happens for a reason, and that is to make you a better stronger person. Never let things keep you down in life, you need to forgive in order to move on with your life. Always forgive, but never forget.
Hope in the Shadows by Michael Clark