I forgive, but I also learn a lesson. I won’t hate you, but I’ll never get close enough for you to hurt me again. I can’t let my forgiveness become foolishness.
— Tony Gaskins
This quote was shared on a Facebook page called Quotes For You. At the bottom of the quote someone had added, ‘Type yes if you agree.’ At the time I saw it, there were 196 comments posted. Of these comments, only one person had typed ‘no’, adding, ‘I can forgive and then forget over time’. So, somewhere out there, 195 people have been hurt so badly they feel they will never forget it.
That’s a bit sad. Or is it?
I have no way of knowing how these people were hurt, although I suspect it would have been something to do with romance or possibly friendship. I also suspect the majority of responders were recently hurt; in that case it does feel like the pain will never go away.
Forgiving someone for what they have done is one thing.
Holding on to hatred is not conducive to our own wellbeing. The only person who is disadvantaged by an inability to forgive is the person who can’t forgive. The other people go on with their lives.
You hear about people who are so consumed with not forgiving, so bent on revenge and ‘justice’, it takes over their whole life. I am not suggesting we instantly forgive, but forgiving when you are ready is an important step to moving on.
Forgetting is something else entirely.
If we forget, then we do not learn from the experience and run the risk of something similar happening again. In the same way that there are ‘serial non-forgivers’, there are also ‘serial forgetters’. Neither situation has a positive outcome.
Is it possible to ‘not forget’ without holding on to all the angst and turmoil the event caused; without letting the emotion eat you up inside?
I don’t know; I wish I did. Over the years I have learnt to let go of certain things, but every now and then something happens to make past grievances and wrongdoings flare up all over again. So, maybe these feelings subside, but remain within us, bubbling away under the surface, waiting for their time.
Being teased at school is, I think, an excellent example of forgiving but not forgetting.
As with a lot of kids, I was teased at primary school. I was a ‘goody two shoes’ because I did my work, and I hated getting in trouble. I was also overweight and the snide remarks from the sporty kids, and always being the last person picked for a team, was hurtful.
These children were worthy of me despising them, but also worthy of my sympathy. The fact they had nothing better to do than pick on someone else was a sad statement on their own characters and feelings of self-worth.
I don’t think I wallowed in self-pity. I am pretty sure I was not the sad girl in the corner with no friends (not a big friendship group, but not on my own either). I know I often put on a brave face, pretending I didn’t care. I was lucky I was strong — not everyone is.
The point is though, these experiences shaped who I became. Over time, I forgave the actions of the perpetrators; if I saw them in the street now (and actually recognised them), I would like to think I would smile, nod and at least be civil, but I doubt I would engage in lengthy conversation with them. They, and their lives, do not interest me.
As for forgetting their behaviour — never. You can not forget how a person made you feel, no matter how hard you try. And not forgetting means that I can put strategies in place to help me deal with similar situations. Teasing, in whatever form it takes, happens throughout life; it is not a trait reserved for children, if anything, adults are worse. Not forgetting also means that I can help my students and my own children deal with the effects themselves.
So I advocate for ‘forgive, but don’t forget’.
One other thing:
Time heals all wounds.
A lot of people say this, but I think it’s garbage.
If you have a wound, it will leave a scar. Scars fade over time, but they never go away. They change the surface of the skin and feel different to the rest of your unscathed body. Scars also serve as good reminders for reckless behaviours of the past; making sure you don’t indulge in the same activities again, or at least take precautions if you do.
So, if someone hurts you in some way, maybe forgiveness is like the Band-Aid, but not forgetting is the scar tissue.