It slips from tongues all too often but what does the phrase “forgive and forget” mean? Sometimes the most common of phrases are never questioned. Are phrases like this meant to be taken literally? How can people achieve a directive such as this when the main components seem unattainable?
Forgive and Forget! Often when we feel wronged, insulted, or deceived these seemingly sage words are meant to provide wisdom so that we may move past the offensive incident in question. Most likely, it was first heard in childhood following hurtful name-calling, often heard in adulthood for any number of causes. Seems reasonable on a personal level to find a path forward from such hurtfulness but let us take a moment to consider a grander scale.
- An impaired driver forces a school bus from the road and causes deaths.
- A municipality government ignores indigenous land claims to expand its boundaries.
- A corporation dumps toxic by-products into a river that feeds into protected wildlife lands.
How can it be possible to forgive and forget when more is at stake?
- An ethnic group suffers genocide at the hands of another.
- A small nation is invaded by a larger nation for control of economic assets.
- Tonnes of garbage is discovered to be destroying rare species living on the ocean floor.
To forgive, to stop our feelings of anger or resentment, is often a difficult request to meet. It is asking to exchange our base negative reaction for positive action and to release the offender from our personal inner consequence. In essence, to not carry a sense of hurt.
To forget, to put the incident out of ones mind, is the second directive. To decide that the incident lacks importance and by forgetting we may focus our thought on greater or happier priorities.
It all sounds practical and even attainable but here-in lays the problem. Are we doing any favours in allowing other to think that their bad behaviour is forgivable and has not caused harm in any way? It may not be healthy to hold onto our negative feelings but it may also not benefit our own psyche to pass them off or directly burry them in a mask of forgiveness. It may best serve both sides of such matters to simply acknowledge a personal trespass. Shouldn’t those who cause harm have awareness of the result of their actions?
Simply put, it may not be necessary or even healing to forgive another just because they are ready to be forgiven. Allowing our own feelings to matter and giving ourselves time to understand ourselves following negative impact are important to the process of understanding and reaching a point of forgiveness.
We may not attain personal growth if we rush the process of forgiveness. This applies to both sides of any incident. When we give ourselves time to understand hurt and time to process how feelings and ego affect the relationship we benefit in our personal development. When we gain our own understanding, it can then be an easier transition to forgetting the cause and effect. In times of conflict, time is the gift we give ourselves. If you have hurt another be patient with them, and if you are hurt be patient with yourself. Forgive and forget when you feel ready.