I often find myself baffled at phrases that get knocked about as if they are good. Even more confusing is when I discover a new way to inspect a phrase I've been using my whole life, and upon closer observation, I suddenly realize it's been harmful all along. One such phrase, that I've recently "seen anew," is forgive and forget.
What a horrible piece of advice.
The first part of the phrase is worthy. Forgive. Yes, this is something I want my children to carefully consider when they've been wronged. It is noble work, forgiveness. It is both selfless and self serving at the same time. Let me explain.
I've heard it said that when a person is wronged something is taken away from them. Maybe it's trust or security. It could be a friendship or even emotional wellbeing. Whatever it is, a debt is created between the victim and the offender.
Well, when someone extends forgiveness they open up the very real possibility that they are relieving the guilty party of a burden they rightly deserve to carry. If compassion is the motivator then this is a selfless act in which the victim puts the needs of the offender before their own. In this way the victim can take a bad situation and reclaim it for good.
Choosing to forgive helps the forgiver, too, because unforgiveness festers. It is malignant.
Not forgiving is like swallowing rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.
Holding onto unforgiveness, in many cases, causes no burden on the offender and extreme anguish for the victim. What a terrible, unjust trade. In a sick way the perpetrator is able to effortlessly re-victimize the person over and over again, year after year, in new and unimaginable ways.
Forgiveness is both selfless and self serving, it is powerful and can unlock healing in either party should they choose to do their respective part.
Forgive And Remember
Here is an important point I really want my kids to remember. There is a difference between forgiving a person and putting oneself in danger. Some think that forgiving a person is synonymous to pretending the offense never occurred, hence the saying “forgive and forget.”
What a load of crap.
It's not only crap, it's a dangerous notion and I reject it outright. Despite popular opinion a person can exercise forgiveness without introducing further risk. I believe the art of forgiveness is more about the victim's state of mind than it is about them re-extending an abused trust.
Forgiveness is akin to canceling a debt, and while this is true, it does not infer that all parties make decisions as if the debt never happened. For example, let's look at the concept of debt in more familiar terms: monetary. If someone took a loan out from me, subsequently could not pay it back, and I decided to cancel the debt, I would still, rightly, hesitate before lending the person money again. The balance of the loan can be completely forgiven, with no ill will or animosity, and I can still choose not to lend more money.
The same is true in relationships.
Sydney, Savannah, and Elliot,
I want you to be forgiving people. Extend crazy forgiveness to others. Let it be known! Furthermore, be ready to extend healthy doses of forgiveness to yourselves for the mistakes you will surely make in life.
As you seek out ways to express your forgiveness please know that you don't necessarily need to put yourself in danger to fulfill it. Protect your minds, your bodies, and your spirits.
Don't forgive and forget, forgive and remember. Keep a balanced perspective. You may very well be required to trust again, and that is OK too. Just be sure you are giving it from a position of health and not sickness.
Are you eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die? Now would be a good time to make a change.