This subject was heavy on my mind this morning as I listened to Joel Osteen speak about how God forgives always, and how His forgiveness is always greater than any error one could ever commit. I got to thinking about a couple of people I have chosen not to forgive and whose transgressions I refuse to forget. What would it mean for me to forgive these people? I am a forgiving person, and have long understood that “forgive and forget” does not translate into allowing harmful or toxic people to continue in my life. So why have I chosen, knowingly, to hang onto the pains caused by these people? They are not still doing anything to me, and this allows them to continue in my life in a toxic way. This is my self-examination today.
Word Origin & History
O.E. forgiefan “give, grant, allow,” also “to give up” and “to give in marriage;” from for- “completely” + giefan “give” (see give). The modern sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” is from use of the compound as a Gmc. loan-translation of L. perdonare (cf. Du. vergeven, Ger. vergeben; see pardon).
Full Definition of FORGIVE
1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for
b : to grant relief from payment of
2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon
Word Origin & History
O.E. forgytan, from for- “passing by, letting go” (cf. forbear, forgo) + gietan “to grasp” (see get). A common Gmc. construction (cf. O.S. fargetan, Du. vergeten, Ger. vergessen “to forget”). The literal sense would be “to lose (one’s) grip on,” but that is not recorded in any
Full Definition of FORGET
1 a : to lose the remembrance of : be unable to think of or recall
b obsolete : to cease from doing
2 : to treat with inattention or disregard
3 a : to disregard intentionally : overlook —usually used in the imperative
b : to give up hope for or expectation of —usually used in the imperative
1 : to cease remembering or noticing
2 : to fail to become mindful at the proper time
So… to completely give a let-go! This is why it is a gift to oneself.
“Forgive and forget” is made a difficult practice by the confusion that it means to release another from his or her transgressions and allow them back – back in one’s life, back home, back in a group, etc. This is faulty thinking and leads only to heartache and often bitterness of the one preoccupied and determined not to forgive. That takes effort, but forgiveness actually takes far less effort! Every action receives a reaction from the universe. So consider if we forgive, we receive a certain path to take, and if we do not, we receive another. Which would you have – one chosen for you, or one that you choose freely and with far less effort?
One can find many Bible verses about forgiveness. Whether you claim a religion or not, they are all good advice, and worthy of much consideration and action. However, I have yet to find a verse that says we should forgive AND forget. I think forgetting, as in something being involuntarily or voluntarily wiped from one’s memory is impossible – at least in a force-it-out kind of way.
As used in the context of forgive and forget, the forgetting is in letting go; it is a ceasing of purposely and purposefully recalling. Let go of the attachment you have to the error. Let go of the emotion you have attached to the error. Most importantly, let go of how right you are about the error. Whether you are right or not about the error, it is still the error. Just let it gooooooo… and let the universe swallow it up for you. It is just as simple (or difficult, depending on one’s outlook) to practice letting go as it is to practice harboring the judgment and anger. Yes, it is a practice. We become better at that which we focus – positive or negative. Much like forgiveness, there is another choice about direction here. Which will you choose?
Forgiving and forgetting is not releasing the one (or ones) who hurt you. To the contrary, it is about releasing yourself from the hurt. The life path of the person who hurt you does not change whether you choose to forgive and forget, or not. But yours DOES! We choose our own paths, even when we are asleep at the wheel, and inaction is still an action.
Wake up! Pay attention! Turn on your conscious GPS! If you could draw out your choices over your lifetime as a map, how would those twists and turns look? Where have they taken you, and what journey are you still on? Are you progressing? Do you feel good about your direction? Are you going in circles only to end up in the same spot all the time? Are you lost – wandering aimlessly? Each choice takes a particular path. Each choice rewards us with something. We each created our own maps, life journeys, and painted ourselves into a particular picture. Where are you headed?
(It is important to remember that transgressions, whether real or perceived, are always real to the one who owns the experience.)