Forgive and forget is a phrase most of us have heard before, usually when we are on the receiving end of some behavior that was particularly hurtful to us. Can we really, truly forget hurtful words or negative actions perpetrated against us, or those we love? There is a way to get beyond past hurts. It means freedom for us as we release those that have harmed us. It means escaping from darkness and a maze of missteps.
An individual living anywhere on the planet can probably attest to the fact that something happens every day requiring us to forgive another human being. Unless of course we have spent that day alone, in which case we probably need to forgive ourselves for making some error in deed or judgment. No retribution and no resentment, that is the essence of forgive and forget, yet forgive and remember is more appropriate.
Memories and Emotions
Our lives are filled with opportunities to create memories. Birthdays, graduations, births, vacations, weddings, holidays, or buying a new home; all reasons to celebrate. Alongside those events where people gather together there is always a chance that someone, with or without the intention, will hurt us. It can be a word, a glance, an action or a pathology of all of the above over time.
What happens when family gatherings become a stage for a negative drama to unfold? What happens when, as a child, every birthday or holiday becomes a time for hurtful things to be said? What happens when violence, yelling, and the sound of glass breaking is the symphony that you get to hear regularly? What happens when your family of origin’s exposure to love is basically when it is viewed in the dictionary?
Our long term memories are usually punctuated by some emotion. We have strong emotions around happiness, laughter and glee. Fear, anger, hate and danger are emotive too, frequently more so than happier events. Sometimes nice words are used to cloak vile actions. Still even as children we recognize the sting through the disguise.
Growing up in a home where I saw my mother bleeding from wounds inflicted by my father, I learned fear at an early age. While I do not recollect much from my childhood those memories that linger remind me of a place that was stark, dangerous, and painful; I learned to hate myself and those around me, with passion. Forgive and forget?
I remember being touched inappropriately by my father at the age of eleven. I remember my best friend being touched by him even earlier. I remember keeping secrets about what really went on in our house. Because…well because that was our norm. I remember having a relationship, a spiritual connection with God, and praying that one night instead of my father returning from work he would just die. I remember an unlovely house that I called home.
I remember my confusion about being eleven and having the curves of a woman. I remember trying to hide my womanliness from the molester I called Dad.
I remember being taught how to use a gun and a plan to kill another adolescent. As a teen I remember seriously contemplating murdering my father. As a young mother, I remember earnestly thinking about ending my own life. I have memories. I remember bouts of anger and rage. I remember.
No my vision is not on the hurts of the past. Long ago I forgave my mother and my father for the legacy left to me. As I remember the past now it does not have the negative emotions with the debilitating baggage I carried for so many years attached. Forgive and forget?
Now I have replaced those emotions with those of love. I love myself so much more, I can truthfully say that I love my parents. They are both deceased now, yet before their transitions I was able to forgive them, myself and God.
Yes, there was a part of me that blamed God for hurting me, allowing me to be brought into such a family. I came to realized that He, God, did not create my situation however, He had given me the tools to survive and yes thrive, even given such a horrible start in life. I was able to come through all of that– a lifetime of hurts (barely mentioned here), I came through. You can come through too! Forgive and forget.
Is my life perfect and without hurt now? Of course not! To assume that anyone’s life is perfect is to accept a lie. Not perfect, although I am in the process of perfecting!
Forgive and Remember
Despite being planted in a rocky garden filled with weeds, I was able to find the seeds of love that God has imbedded within me. I was and am able to nurture those seeds of love despite my surroundings. Because of God’s love for me, when I look back it is to see His hand in my life. This Loving, Almighty, Omnipotent Father protected me, nurtured me, guided me and gifted me to be more than a conqueror! (See Romans 8:37 – 39). It is to give Him glory and empower others to conquer as I have.
God is love, and I offer to you, love would not make you in His image, allow you to be in darkness and not provide you with the ability to turn on the light!
Forgiveness is the ability you have to take the sting out of any negative encounters (or memories) by loving yourself enough to walk in His light. Thereby loving the person who has hurt you; not agreeing that what happened was acceptable but allowing yourself to relinquish that person to your Loving Heavenly Father. That is the legacy He gives to His children. I choose to honor and carry that legacy.
Forgive and forget, perhaps. I choose to forgive the offense and remember the love of God in any and every situation, no matter how grave, egregious or pathological. We are to first love God and then our neighbor as yourself. (See Matthew 22: 36-40)
Forgive and remember! What comes to mind that you need to forgive? You have the power to turn on the light. Darkness flees in the presence of light. Light is stronger than darkness.
Take Inventory and Take Action!
“Lighting the path to loving your neighbor as yourself.”
P.S. Let me hear from you, I can offer specific tools on how to forgive and move to a greater love of God and yourself! firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-786-3094.