Should We Forgive or Forget?

Have you ever fooled yourself into thinking that you don’t care? For example, has someone broke your trust by sharing secrets about you or have you caught a group of co-workers gossiping about you and although it hurt you said, “I don’t care”? You knew when the words were muttered that it was just an illusion but for some reason you thought by saying the words the pain would cease. I’ve done it. When things like this happen, I think of what’s next and the old saying “forgive and forget” comes to mind. I want to forgive but forgetting hurt is difficult.

Hurt is an unfortunate part of life. No matter how much we shield our feelings from people, events, and unpredictability, hurt will eventually find us. Since hurt is coming, it may be a good idea to think about how hurt should be handled once it arrives and how we act once we decide to let it go. There is always advice to be found on the subject. In my thirty plus years of life, the quote, “No one can make you feel that way without your permission,” has surfaced multiple times. Maybe I don’t understand these words as I should, but how I feel doesn’t always seem like a controlled emotion. I have been at the receiving end of insults and lies with the sole purpose of hurting me. The culprit knew just what to say and went straight for the kill. If my enemy knew how to cut me where it hurts, wouldn’t I? We know how to hurt each other because we know what would hurt us. There is no internal process with me that can shut off the negative feelings resulting from negative actions. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a choice about what I permit to hurt me, just who.

So brings us the quote, “Forgive and forget.” It is a lovely sentiment but somewhat foolish. Yes, in a perfect world we could forget all the bad things someone else has done to us but that would be difficult, even for someone like me who has a terrible memory. So, I don’t think we should forget. Why? If we were to forgive someone for continually hurting us and allow that person back into our life, we can predict with some accuracy what will continue to happen. We will get hurt. We have to allow ourselves some recollection of the way other people treat us. If not, we will have to start getting used to fooling ourselves into thinking that we don’t care. I am tired of pretending that I don’t care about how I have been treated. I am tired of feeling like I will never be good enough to earn equal respect with some people. I am a reserved person in many ways and my trust isn’t easily earned. It is hard to gain my trust again once I have been hurt. So I have had to teach myself to back away from some people and keep a protective distance. It is a hard thing to do because I like to give people as many chances as I can to have some sort of relationship with me but that isn’t always possible. The best I can do is to forgive differences but not forget that my trust was broken.

That is just how life is; we can’t get along with everyone and not everyone wants to get along with us. Honestly, there are people who don’t want to get along with anyone else. It is also a great part of the diversity of being human, we are all so unique. With this we must accept that pain will come at the hands of others. The best advice I can give about getting along with others is this: make sure opinions about other people are not based on any opinion other than your own, especially not based on gossip. Also, never judge someone based on outside appearance. I have received some crappy gifts wrapped in pretty packages. Haven’t you? This means we will sometimes be hurt by people before we know what they are made of, but we will have the peace of mind that we know for ourselves.

Upon finishing up this post, I ran across a verse of the Bible. Not everyone is religious but this verse is a good piece of advice that sums up what I want to say very well. Luke 6:31 (NLV) “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” I have had a hard time wondering why some don’t allow me an opportunity to get to know them. At a recent trip to the grocery store, my husband and I ran into a mutual acquaintance. I have previously shared with my husband that she has been known to avoid me or fails to even acknowledge my presence. On this day, she did it in front him. She spoke to him for a minute and I said “Hi!” She then walked away. She heard me, looked at me, and proved my case. My only question was, “Why?” The times I have spoken to her have been pleasant enough but what about me makes her shut down? I may never know. I can speculate that maybe she formed her opinion of me based on gossip, maybe my shy nature comes off poorly (I get that a lot), or she just chooses not to associate with me. I don’t know but I will continue to try to give her a greeting or smile, even if she doesn’t like it because that is how I would want to be treated. Maybe someday she will return the pleasantries.

I know when I am treated like I don’t have feelings, it hurts. The only thing I can do is try harder to follow a good piece of very old advice and treat others kindly. I know I won’t always make the right choices so I will have to rely on someone else to forgive me but I can’t expect them to forget the way in which I have hurt them. All of us will make mistakes, how we handle our own mistakes and those of others may define who we are and how happy we want to be. When it comes down to it, don’t most of us want to become better people, if not for someone else, at least for ourselves?



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