Forgiving is a conscious choice. Forgetting is an unconscious act. It has to be. If we deliberately try to forget something, then the act of trying to forget actually makes us realize the subject which we were supposed to forget.
You probably have heard the term “to forgive and forget” before. However, did you ever stop to think of the significance as to why both words are used? Why don’t we just forgive? Why don’t we just forget?
The situation of forgiving someone and not forgetting is common. We believe that we have forgiven someone, but when that someone does something similar to upset us, we automatically remember the incident that we supposedly forgave them for. If we bring it up, then it is easy to argue that perhaps we never forgave the person in the first place. But even if we don’t bring it up, our mind goes through some turmoil where we relive the emotions of hurt and anger.
It is also wise to be aware that we sometimes forget incidents where we never forgave a person in the first place. In this situation, we may consciously feel no hurt, anger, or remorse towards the situation. After all, we can’t, since we forgot all about it. But our subconscious mind never forgets. And, if we haven’t forgiven someone, our subconscious mind still feels the hurt, the anger, and uses that in ways that may not, and probably are not, evident to us. This is a dangerous place to be.
So, there’s a lot of depth to the phrase “forgive and forget.” Technically, for the sake of being definitively accurate, it should be “forgive, and then forget.” Forgiving actually heals the soul. It doesn’t matter if we’re forgiving someone else, or if we’re forgiving ourselves.
Sometimes when I give a positive personal-growth book to someone I get the response “well, it is just so one-sided.” So, I’m going to include a quote that doesn’t really agree with my philosophy in this chapter. However, the underlining message is consistent. In the book “Success for Dummies,” it states: “To ‘forgive and forget’ is virtually impossible, but you can forgive and remember that you’re giving up the rights for retribution.”
Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily imply reconciliation. Robert Enright, Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin says that forgiving is not reconciling. You can forgive the offender and still choose not to re-establish the relationship. Just because you forgive an “act” doesn’t mean that you forget the lesson. If someone hurts you, forgive them. But don’t put yourself in the exact same circumstances to be hurt again.
One of my favorite quotes is “To err is human; to forgive, divine” by Alexander Pope.
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Danish Ahmed, blind visionary