Forgive And Forget

Vidya Sury is too well known to need an introduction. Her posts are always brimming with positivity, she is always upbeat. Her words are insightful and funny. It is always a pleasure to read her. Though, sometimes I am simply not able to. But I believe that I would be taken to her blog the day I need to read something she has written. I console myself with that thought.

This is what I read on her blog today:

I’ve been thinking about the “forgive and forget” advice my Mom used to constantly gave me. I’ll tell you why. It is funny how life comes a full circle and people who treated you badly suddenly do an about turn and decide to be nice. Growing up as a “fatherless girl” as I was called, quite a few members of my family did not think my Mom and I deserved a normal life because we were not a “normal” family. Consequently we were shuffled around quite a bit. Thanks to our “tradition” one never talked back to the elders in the house, regardless of whether they were right or wrong. Oh yes, they were wrong. Often.

As I grew older, and developed a mind of my own, the rebel in me grew too. I would find it hard to keep quiet when they were unkind to my Mom. I always considered myself stronger emotionally but couldn’t bear to see my Mom hurt. And it would freak me out when my Mom smiled and said “forgive and forget”. I mean, how could she?

Read the rest at Forgive and Forget – Is it possible?

Having read the post, I thought for a few minutes about my own take on the entire forgive and forget deal.

The truth is, I am not very sure what people refer to when they talk of forgiveness.

In the past decade, after expending a mountain load of futile ire and many truckloads of childish peeve, I have now reached a place where I am genuinely (and I assure you this is not an affectation) not hurt by people. Not hurt. Sometimes I am offended by their thoughtlessness and sheer cluelessness, but that exasperation is only momentary. I ask myself if I really want to give clueless and (sometimes inadvertently) thoughtless people a space in my head. The answer is always no. Is this what people mean, when they talk of forgiveness?

But the incident does get noted somewhere. There is no revengeful or resentful anger in the record. It is more in the nature of self- protection. It is more in the nature of hanging a red lantern at the mouth of an abyss. Or the way you would note that a particular path in the woods leads you to a dangerous quicksand and so must be traversed with care. I mean, why would you be resentful of the abyss or the quicksand? Doesn’t sound frightfully clever, does it? Is that what forgiveness means?

Once the incident has cooled down, I make it a point to let the other person know, without accusation or blame, that their action was not something I expected of them. I let them know in very honest words that their actions/ words did offend me. I have seen that when the words are gentle and non- accusatory, it leaves enough room for the other person to re- examine themselves. It also creates enough space for them to offer an explanation, if there is one. Once this process has been gone through, we are both free to wipe the slate clean. I wonder if this is forgiveness?

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.

~ Steve Maraboli

Much as I recommend forgive and forget, I am a huge fan of prevention is better than cure. Think of the wear and tear you could avoid if you wouldn’t get hurt  in the first place. In one sweep you render the entire forgive and forget operation inessential. Thus saving time and a whole lot of emotional energy which would be better used elsewhere. For instance in telling your loved ones how MUCH you love them.

This does not mean that  no one who can hurt me. There are some, but they are so few that I can count them on fingers of one hand. Even those who can, can’t hurt me except in certain circumstances. My kids, for example, can’t hurt me by arguing with me. They annoy me that way- and HOW! They can hurt me by doing something which puts them in harm’s way, or by being uncaring of each other. Thankfully, those instances are very rare. This further narrows the field down. Or is this forgiveness?

If I do get hurt, however rarely, I try to examine the circumstances. From my knowledge of the person, who has to be someone that matters to me greatly, I ask myself why the person might have done what they did by asking myself the following questions:

1. Were they aware that I would be hurt by their actions and yet did/ say what they did?

2. Did they do it to hurt me or was it done as a reflex action to protect themselves from pain?

3. What was going on inside them to make them do what they did?

4. Where are they hurting (surely they must be hurting too if they could throw hurting things at me)?

5. Can I help them deal with their pain?

When you ask better question, you get better answers.

~Anthony Robbins

By the time these question are asked- and answered- my focus has shifter from my own pain to that of the one who hurt me. I have no energy or inclination left to be angry or resentful towards them. On the contrary, I am intensely aware of their pain and of my desire to help them out of it. Maybe this is forgiveness?

I really don’t know what part of the process above can be called forgiveness. Maybe all, maybe none. But one thing I am certain of. It is not good to nurture resentment in your heart for another person. It keeps you tied to that person in a karmic way. As long as you share that karmic bond, you will bear the consequences (albeit microscopically) of that person’s karma. If the person does good, you will share a miniscule part of that goodness. If the person does evil, a tiny part of their evil will also be yours.

I have enough to do dealing with my own good and evil, I don’t need random people, who don’t even matter to me, tipping the scales for me. I don’t want that kind of grief at all. Is this what people refer to when they talk of forgiveness?

What is your stand on the Forgive and Forget deal?

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23 thoughts on “Forgive And Forget”

  1. This has always intrigued me. I can’t say that I can completely insulate myself from getting hurt, but yes I do try to forgiveness. Forgetting is very difficult. Let’s just say, I have a good memory :-). I began the year when I did a post on this. I believe that in the current year, I will work towards actively forgiving and healing myself. I will do it for myself. Here was the post that explains my viewpoint:

    1. I remember that post of yours very vividly Rachna. As for good memory, I have a very good memory too. I think this is a women thing. 😛

      I don’t think we need to forget, really. As long as you don’t remember with bitterness or resentment, what is the harm in remembering? At least it serves to guide your future interactions with the person.

      As always, your comment validates me. 🙂

      1. I completely agree, Dagny! If the baggage behind the experience is shed, then there is no harm in remembering. After all, we don’t want to be committing the same mistake again with this person or another and for that it is important that we do not forget! Always an interesting topic to mull over. Always a pleasure reading your thoughts :-D.

        1. Exactly my reason for not forgetting Rachna. I mean, why go out of your way putting yourself where you might get kicked again?

          Funny how we think alike, isnt it? 🙂

  2. Ditto ditto ditto…I go through the process of hurt and then comes the letting go phase…when I have made peace with the situation and the person. And I don’t have to necessarily have to have that person in my life or in my orbit either. As always a wonderful post Dagny.

    1. Perfectly and concisely said Janaki. You don’t have to put people in your life or your orbit. There are too many of the other kind to hang out with. 😀

  3. Hi Dagny, First, thanks for leading me to Vidya’s post. I loved it and added my comment there too for her excellent post. I loved your post too. The quotes, some of the sentences…Lovely. I was going to initially let you know a line which I liked but then I liked another and then another! 🙂 I am unique enough to think I am stupid. I mean generally we do not want to commit the same mistakes again with the same people but, what about same mistakes with different people? I mean, I always trust first. When the trust is broken or the confidence misused, then I believe is the time when I distance myself. Try as I might, I am unable to do it the other way. It’s a recipe to get hurt and also maybe to hurt! but, that’s why I am me and no one else 🙂 I can also let go but, I do not forget. I can remember a lot of things with kindness in retrospect but, when someone hurts me badly, I can walk away and pretend (pretend honestly!) that person never existed in my life because any power the person or situation had over me is now only with me.

    1. Poornima, It is funny, or maybe not, but I am the same. I trust first and ponder later. Barring a few mishaps, this strategy has worked out perfectly fine with me. 🙂
      The alternative is that I keep looking at people suspiciously. To do that I would have to be on guard ALL the blessed time. I would have to curb my natural impulses and deliberately become this gloomy character who goes about turning up every single stone certain of finding slugs under it. The whole thing sounds horribly tiring- hence boring- to me.
      It is far better- and less tiring- to trust people by default. After all, at the most only 10% people abuse your confidence. For the sake of these 10%, why should I suspect the other 90%. The odds are not in favor of the strategy. To ignore statistic is as good as butting you head against a stone wall. Foolish.
      Why do you make me write such long replies to you Poornima? 😀

      1. Thanks for your comment Dagny. Now, I am no longer feeling stupid. You made it sound so perfect and sensible to be the way I am. And you are too 🙂 Yes, I guess, it is quite tiresome to think and act always 🙂 Thanks again.

  4. Very well said. Anger and resentment harm us more than those because of whom we are hurt or are angry. I believe forgiveness is a slow but steady process. It comes to you naturally with age. I say this from my own experience. The very things or people that used to hurt me in the past by their words or actions do not hurt me as much nowadays. May be I have learnt to let go or may be I am used to this behaviour of theirs and for my own good I have learnt to not let it affect me. Whatever forgiving is definitely possible, but forgetting is impossible. The scar does remain however faded it becomes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

    1. As you said Rekha, forgiveness is a slow process. It also takes a kind of maturity to forgive. Maybe, as you said, it is because we get accustomed to people’s bad behavior and lower our expectations from them. Or maybe it is because we have reached a place of inner security and confidence. Once in the safe place, we know that people’s words, actions or opinions would not affect us, so we are able to ignore what doesn’t serve us.
      Thank you so much for reading, and sharing, this. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Sunday Brunch #7 | Serenely Rapt

  6. ME – I can forget and avoid – NEVER forgive. Forget, as in not giving mind-space to that person and avoidance is a huge help in ensuring that I do not have to spend time even thinking about that person. BUT – FORGIVE? ONLY if the other person expresses remorse AND I feel that it is genuine. If I would forgive without that, HOW am I respecting those who never give me reason to be hurt?

    1. Isn’t it strange Suresh, that your last words HOW am I respecting those who never give me reason to be hurt?, totally resonated with me. Paraphrasing my favorite writer:
      Nothing remains unpaid for in the universe. When the guilty don’t pay for their mistake, the innocent have to pay for it.
      And that, is very unfair.
      In the same way, not to penalize the offending is telling the non- offenders that their good behavior is taken for granted. Again, unfair.

  7. Holding on to anger and resentment is more harmful to us than anyone else.
    I don’t forgive easily unfortunately. I move on. I let go of either the person or the incident.. but forgiveness doesn’t come by easily in some cases. Letting go or quitting is hard for me.. but I’m working on it and I think I have made progress there as well.
    Of course, if the apology is genuine, then all is forgiven.. but that doesn’t happen all the time.

    And forgetting – I’m blessed with a terrible memory.. and I’m absent minded to boot.. 😀

    1. Then you are already blessed. For they say the key to a happy life is a bad memory for hurts and a good memory for joys. You’ve got part of it pat anyhow. 🙂

  8. As always a very interesting subject. I try not to let myself be affected by any negative experiences I might have had, I try to forgive and forget but it’s not always that I manage to get by with this belief. More often than not, I forgive but never forget. I guess you can blame that on being a woman and a Scorpio at that 🙂
    But in recent times with the circles I have been in, I have observed that the behaviours I am surrounded by are nowhere close to the ones I grew up with. For e.g. I am a person used to having my close ones display emotional attachments all through my ups and downs and vice versa. Now, I am coming across people who come across as insensitive all the time.. I try to forgive but it keeps repeating. How does forgiveness work when the behaviour repeats? Is it because their intrinsic nature is so? Is it because their very definitions of behaviour are different from mine? In that case should we even get hurt by it? or just live and let live?..
    Ok, let me stop my rant at that…. but now you know, your post has surely got me thinking.. loved it…

    1. Seeta, As you’ve almost figured out yourself, you shouldn’t be hurt by the intrinsically insensitive people. They ARE like that. It isn’t easy to accept, I know that. Specially when you see that they are very vigilant about getting their dues from you. They can expect until the cows come home, they can demand and throw tantrums until you feel like a piece of drilled cheese, but you cant. I’ve met such people. I’ve handled their silly tantrums. Until I got fed up one day and said, “Not bloody likely!”

      It’s been peaceful hereabouts since then. Yeah! 😀 😀

  9. I agree. I was reminded of a friend of mine. I had wronged him grievously during my MBA days. He chose to forgive but he had not forgotten. He took me on a flat-mate couple of years later when we were working and one night suddenly he raised the topic of my behavior those years back and we had a night long detailed detached philosophical discussion over the reasons for my behavior.

    1. I guess closure can happen only when things are talked over, explained and apologies given. That’s when one can wipe the slate clean.

      Thank you for coming by… 🙂

  10. My zodiac twin fight and jostle for mental peace. While the aggressive one screams for vendetta the mildler twin prays for forgiveness. With the passage of time the milder one smiles.

    this is a contentious issue.

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