I once told someone I forgive but I don’t forget. Understably shocked, this person said okay, that’s scary. And it was. I very obviously had a very loose grasp on the concept of forgiveness at the time, and very long afterwards.
These past three days things have been happening that I firmly believe are far from coincidence. Sunday morning before reading or even opening my devotional, while leafing through my bible I somehow stopped and read the book of Jonah. Yes, I and the whole world know the story and how he got trapped in the big fish, still I stopped to read it. Then a few minutes later when I started reading the devotional, one of the day’s bible readings happened to be from Jonah. Hmm, coincidence? Maybe. Well, that very night while watching TV and flipping through the channels I momentarily stopped to listen to a televangelist speak. And guess what he started talking about some minutes after I had tuned in? Yes, Jonah. You can imagine my surprise. Or can you?
Monday morning. Shower time always gets me thinking. When I am in there my mind travels at supersonic speeds, thinks about things that seemingly have no reason showing up in my head at that particular moment in time, picking one topic one minute and dropping it for another the next. If ever I have a world-changing, earth-shattering idea, I’m fairly certain it will occur to me during my shower time. So Monday morning shower time I’m thinking about forgiveness and then I remember my statement of so very long ago, more than half a decade: I forgive but I don’t forget. I go on to think about how I meant it, and how unfortunate it is that I had so little understanding of the concept of forgiveness. And then I remember something I read weeks back that a famous(?) someone said: forgive a wrong but don’t forget who has committed it so that you can guard against that person in the future. Or something to that effect. This person was speaking in a business/workplace context and how to out-do competitors.
In my case and my statement what I meant was that I would forgive, that is, bear no hard feelings and move on but I wouldn’t forget (literally) the wrong done. And I thought myself very right. Rather sad, because what I did not realise is I had zero understanding of the term ‘forgive and forget’.
So, for very long, I lived my mantra forgive but don’t forget in every (wrong) sense of the word without even realising it. In reflection, (I hope I’m right this time) I’ve realised that forgive and forget means you forgive the wrong done, do not bring it up again – ever, and move on having learnt from it but without letting it stain the future. Bringing up a past wrong time and time again, reminding the doer of the wrong of their error, is a poisonous thing and shows weakness of character. It does not matter how this ‘forgiven’ wrong is brought up, that is, even if there’s no bitterness in you or your speech as you bring up the past wrong, it harms the other person, constantly taking them back to that sorrowful place of unforgiveness and holding them captive there. There’s no reason a forgiven wrong should resurface, if the heart of the forgiver be true. When you forgive, you forget by letting the past lie in the past where it belongs. And that is what I’ve learnt.
These things went through my mind Monday morning and whole day long. Monday evening, flipping through the channels on TV, I stop by a reality show on MTV. Two housemates have had a misunderstanding and one housemate, talking to a friend later says, ‘I mean if someone comes to me and apologises it’s alright, I’ll accept the apology. I forgive but I don’t forget. I don’t wanna hold grudges or anything like that…’
Okay, so tell me, how is it possible that two days in a perfect row I wake up in the morning thinking about something and then it shows up on TV that very evening, the very thing, without alteration. I do not call that coincidence.
Something else happened yesterday as well, but because of the zillion things on my mind and the brief tenancy of each, the third non-coincidence seems to have escaped my remembrance.
When it comes to forgiveness I’m a lot harder on myself than I am on others. I’ve sometimes been hard on others, but always harder on myself, I don’t know why. I live the error, and re-live it, and replay it until it causes me no pain or regret anymore. Until I don’t cringe at the memory of the event. Then I’ll know I’ve forgiven myself. And this process has been known to take months! Once, it was an error I made in giving a speech at a friend’s wedding, a slight error that everyone else probably forgot about shortly afterwards. Not I. It took me about 6 months! And I don’t think, even in my skewed concepts of forgiveness, it has ever taken me that long to forgive anyone.
Still, I’m learning each day –
To forgive and forget.