When someone does you wrong and you’re asking friends or family for advice, it’s typical for at least one person to say, “Forgive and forget.” From my personal experience, neither of these two things are easy, and sometimes I wonder if they’re even possible.
I had a conversation with a friend last night about this topic. He is having a hard time forgetting his ex after years of being misused and a severe lack of trust. This thinking of her haunts him sometimes and he questioned whether or not he was “normal” in feeling this way, especially because he understands that he deserves a better relationship.
This hit home, because this thought crosses my mind from time to time. I had planned my entire life with a person just to have my heart broken and my future shattered, and yet seeing him and hearing his name still sometimes brings pain. I want to forget how he hurt me, I want to forget what he meant to me, I want to forget him. But not until now have I really considered that I might need to forgive him before I can succeed in forgetting.
To me, I don’t think we can ever truly forget, but we can forgive. Forgiveness is key in dimming the memories and honestly being able to move on with your life. Without consciously making the decision to forgive someone’s actions or words, those negative feelings we have every time that person is brought up will keep coming back. However, granting forgiveness is a very difficult thing to do in terms of severe harm that was caused. When we’re hurt by another person, our initial reaction is to want to forget the situation ever happened and move on with our life. But, just as Freud once stated, no matter how much we try to forget the greatest wrongs committed against us, it is physiologically impossible. Memories can be repressed, Freud suggested, only to be revived by similar emotional experiences or internal recognition.
So, since it is literally impossible to forget such severe wrongs done to us, how do we move on? The answer: forgive.
Forgiveness is not easy, though, and is often approached in the wrong manner. You cannot work to forgive someone with the entire motive of wanting to forget them completely and move forward. Instead, you have to constantly work towards forgiveness with the intent of actually forgiving that person. Otherwise you will always be haunted by the horrible situations and events that have come to define and shape you into the person you are today.
I am working on this as well. I have people from my past I want to forgive, and I have caught myself trying to forgive them for the sole purpose of forgetting them. I’ve come to realize (with some help of Freud, my friends, and my family) that the forgetting part really won’t happen. The memories will dim, in time, but they will not go away completely. So I’m working on forgiveness. How, you might ask? I really have no easy answer for you, other than time and intention to live with a hope of one day practicing forgiveness for all those who may have harmed me in the past and who will hurt me in the future.
With this thought, I can also pray that if/when I hurt someone, they may also work towards forgiving me in a similar way.