To forgive and forget has been a phrase that most of us have known, and have likely used at one time or another. It seems like an ideal that all individuals should strive for in healthy relationships. However, the problem is that, we as humans are not good “forgetters.” In fact, more often than not, the more we try to forget something, the more we end up rehearsing it and committing it to memory. In his book Hate-Work, author David Augsburger believes that we all find a “place for our grief, rage, and resentment in our memory.”
The difficult reality is that we were designed to remember. Our choice then is not to remember or forget, but to choose the manner in which we will remember the wrongs committed against us. In the same book, Augsburger states that, “people need to remember their story, tell it with historical accuracy, recall the injuries given and received, and do reparative work or they are very likely to repeat it in painful detail. Simple forgetting, repressing of memories, substituting disinformation holds an [individual] hostage to his past.” It is therefore over simplistic and unrealistic to hold ourselves to the idea of “forgiving and forgetting.” We can, however, examine the manner in which we remember those who have wronged us. How will we model for our children how to practice forgiveness in their own lives?
Reflect on the following “Exploration Inventory” from the book Hate Work. It has been modified from how it was originally printed to fit common experiences we often find in the families we work with at Shelterwood:
- Are there members in my extended family whom I have emotionally cut off, who were previously connected with me but are no longer so?
- Do I have hurtful relationships with my spouse or children that I cannot stop reviewing?
- Do I realize what payoff I get from rehearsing an offense over and over?
- How often have I told and retold the story of the offense to others to gain their support and validation of my role as victim?