How many times have you heard someone say, “I forgave him, but I’ll never forget?” As I plod through this life, I often think about people who have wronged me, or just been total jerks, and I must be a real jerk myself since I have not found the means in many cases to forgive, let alone forget. Yet, I marvel at this saying and wonder if it is really possible to forgive but not forget.
In relationships, there are so many levels of intimacy that may make the ability to “forget” nearly impossible. When I think about some old boyfriend and the antics that broke my heart or caused the relationship to break entirely, I forgive him-maybe. I mean, what does it matter now? The relationship has ended, people moved on, you learn about the things that you will never let happen again. Maybe that’s part of the “not forgetting.” Perhaps it’s in the “not forgetting” that we catalog the things that work for us and the things that we will avoid in future. When someone breaks your heart (and it can be anyone, not just a “love” relationship), you learn a lot about yourself.
And what exactly are you forgiving? The pain that was caused, the way that person made you feel, what? In the Prayer of St. Francis, the words, “It is in forgiving that we are forgiven,” come to mind. I guess that’s why he’s a saint and I’m not. Perhaps I am the car wreck on the soft shoulder of the two way street of forgiveness.
So back to forgetting – is the need to “not forget” a protective coating in which we cloak ourselves to prevent being hurt again? If so, is the need to maintain a relationship that requires equal measures of forgiving and forgetting worth nurturing?
As I reflect on my own weaknesses, perhaps my inability to “forgive and forget” readily and automatically is a flaw. Yet, it is a flaw that I struggle to change or relinquish. I attribute some of my “issues” around forgiving a part of my ethnicity. As an Italian, I belong to a nationality of serial “non-forgivers” who have memories as long as time itself. What a great excuse! I come by it naturally! I was born that way! But, as much as it’s a great excuse, it isn’t a rousing affirmation of my humanity. Oh well…
Is it worth trying to hone the skills attached to forgiving and forgetting? I am not sure, especially at this point in my life…or is it now, at my age, vital to try? At the end of life, there are always regrets around things unsaid and relationships broken. Since I should have a pretty good run left in me, I may contemplate fighting against my genetics and general stubbornness and try to forget the things that I may or may not have forgiven. I can try. And forgive myself if I fail.