I try to forgive but I just can’t FORGET

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.”

Screen Shot 2015 09 17 at 11.45.09 AM 300x99 I try to forgive but I just cant FORGETThe 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?

Maybe Teens Should “Just Relax” and Not Parents

I read a survey today of 340,000 Americans that said that after we turn 50, we are generally happier. The 30-50 age was less happy and the most stressed out group was 20-30. The study didn’t survey teenagers, but I wonder if the 13-18 group would top all the age groups on feeling stressed. Today’s teens especially carry a pretty hefty load of issues on their shoulders every day. Of course, the load is relative to the degree that we learn to be content. That’s why the older we get, the more at peace we become. But teenagers are just beginning to deal with life’s up’s and down’s.

images 5 Maybe Teens Should Just Relax and Not ParentsSometimes your teen may seem to be overly sensitive. And the more you try to help them, the more he or she may cry or sob. The guys will be better at ‘stuffing’ and will tend to funnel all their emotions into the one they know best: anger. Girls tend to be more expressive and deliberate in their emotions.

I remember one night when Elizabeth came home from cheering at a basketball game. She made it to the steps coming up from our basement and fell to her knees sobbing. I thought she’d broken up with her boyfriend or been in a bad accident. She announced that someone had backed into her car in the high school parking lot. I looked at her car and it didn’t even do much damage. I laughed and gave her a big hug. Another time she called home from college in tears and upset. As she cried, I figured she’d been kicked out of school or arrested. She announced, “Daddy, I dropped my cell phone in the fountain.” I just started laughing again. I was so relieved. It made her laugh too. “It’s OK darlin,” I said. “We’ll get you another phone.”

The point is that a part of being a teenager is feeling things intensely. I probably shouldn’t have laughed with Elizabeth because what may seem trivial to us as parents is huge to them. But I was so relieved. As parents who have dealt with heavier issues, getting bumped by a car is small beans. But to our kids, these events are huge.

We need to be careful that we validate our teen’s emotions. As parents, we tend to trivialize events and happenings in the lives of our teens. Though dropping a cell phone or struggling with a friend at school or having a bad baseball practice or having a zit may seem small to us, to our kids, it’s huge and we need to feel the pain with them. The danger, if we discard these events, is that our teens will stop telling us about events in their lives.

Yes, hormones are pumping and our teens may seem irrational at times, but show your teenager that you love them by listening to them in the midst of the drama. Don’t offer advice or minimize the problem, just listen and sympathize.

Yep, you may have a drama queen (or king) on your hands. But be sure you take them by the hand and show them you love them by being with them through the problem.