Saturday, 26 March 2016

Forgive and forget

There's a lot of sancti-monious piffle about forgiving and forgetting, often by people who bear grudges by the lorry-load. But how many of us are able to be so charitable and so big-hearted?

It's hard to forgive someone why has deliberately insulted you or exploited you or cheated you out of something. It's not as if they made an innocent mistake and didn't really know what they were doing.

Likewise it's hard to forget something that had a big impact on your life, that ruined a relationship or lost you a job or wrecked your health. How can you forget something that had a lasting influence and can't be reversed?

I can't forgive my parents for keeping me at a school that was clearly unsuited to my personality and abilities, and where I was obviously unhappy. I can't forgive a particular boss for putting me through a nerve-wracking disciplinary process for what I thought was a quite trivial offence. I can't forgive politicians who have made life worse for so many people. I can't forgive the neighbours who kept us awake time after time with their all-night parties. Nor can I forget all these things, unless I suddenly develop total amnesia.

So no, I think forgiving and forgetting is a pretty tall order. Maybe the saintly gurus and holy men can manage it, but for most of us it's a non-starter. What is practical though is to say, I don't forgive and I don't forget but there's nothing to be gained in dwelling on these things and wishing they had never happened. And there's nothing to be gained by fuming with rage or seeking revenge. That won't remedy anything, it'll just turn me into a sour, bitter old sod.

Even that's too much for some. People nurse their private grudges for years, even when the person who prompted them is long dead and buried. They go on pushing for "justice" when anyone else can see they're asking for the moon.

Forgive and forget? You'll be lucky.


  1. A therapist I had years ago believed in the philosophy "Understanding Means There's Nothing to Forgive" and wrote a book about it. He totally had me understanding my parents and their behaviours. Our formative years are so important.

    Not that I think this philosophy applies to situations/people where we can walk away, fuming and resolving never to have anything to do with them. I've done this many times. Particularly with "energy vampires" who suck one dry and give nothing, ever.

    But when it comes to rellies it has applied for me. And I always look for the helpers even in family situations, even though they can be far too thin on the ground.


  2. I do forgive even when some things are hard to forget. I do not hold grudges - such a waste of time, energy and health - life is too short. Greetings Maria x

  3. I admit I don't forget. What I try to do is move on and not ruminate about it because it's not healthy physically or mentally to do so. I also just ignore people who offend me. In a way, that is the best revenge because negative people thrive on attention.

  4. www: Hmmm, sounds good in theory but it's hard to see how you can understand someone who deliberately mistreats you. And yes, I've had to disentangle myself from a few energy vampires in my time.

    Maria: I find it hard to forgive but I never bear grudges, it's totally destructive.

  5. Bijoux: I agree, the worst thing to do is ruminate on these things, it achieves nothing. And I also tend to ignore people who offend me. Challenging them usually just puts them on the defensive and gets nowhere.

  6. I only just read this Nick. It seems that we are on the same wavelength. It was strange to read it tonight.

  7. Rachel: We are? Do you mean about the woman who was spreading malicious stories about you?

    1. I mean that I admire a person who can say sorry when a mistake has been made and likewise the person on the receiving end who can accept it. Neither are always easy. Your post had some resonance with me because of the comment I had already made to you on my post yesterday before reading your post.

  8. wow.
    as rummy says... synchronicity.
    my current post is sort of on this topic. a bit anyway.
    I am working at forgiving.
    my late mother in law especially.
    remembering all the angst and ill will from her is pointless.
    it only serves to make me ill. and it's long over.
    I truly believe that holding all that poison in damages our health.
    so especially in that sense... I forgive!
    which is a self centered way of forgiving no doubt!

  9. It seems to me that letting go and moving on is the most important thing, although in some cases it helps to try to see the bigger picture and understand the other person too. I figure if I have to go through the pain I might as well learn something from it.

  10. Tammy: I remember all the angst and ill will from my father, but the thing is I don't let it fester as some deep-seated grievance. I just put it behind me and get on with the rest of my life.

    Jean: I agree, letting go and moving on is what you need to do. As I say, I find it hard to understand someone who has deliberately mistreated me. If they didn't mean to, and it was an unfortunate accident or misjudgment, that's a different matter.

  11. I think most people misunderstand what forgiveness is. All that is required is that you dont let the hurt of the past continue to hurt you. You dont have to like your tormentor, you dont have to continue to have them in your life, you dont necessarily have to make the effort to understand them (although I agree that often it does work out that understanding removes the need to forgive)

    And we dont forget but as we heal the memories are softer, less painful, less intrusive and less frequent.

    What do you know of your father? Do you have any insight into why he was the way he was? Do you realise that sending you to boarding school was probably well intentioned? Do you understand that he was probably deeply damaged himself and was doing the best he could?

  12. Rachel: You've lost me! I didn't say anything on my post about saying sorry. But you're right, I find it easy to apologise if I feel I'm in the wrong about something. I don't understand people who think apologising is somehow humiliating. Men in particular.

  13. Kylie: I think you and I have a very similar take on this. I agree totally that the important thing is not to let the hurt go on hurting you, and to do that you don't have to like or understand your tormentor. I also agree that we don't forget but hopefully the memory softens.

    I don't know a lot about my father because he was secretive and like most men of the time didn't like to talk about anything personal or emotional. He certainly sent me to boarding school with the best of intentions. He went to boarding school himself (from the age of 7!) and thought it would do me good.

    He was certainly badly damaged and doing the best he could. I think he was damaged by going to boarding school at such a tender age, which like me he no doubt saw as parental rejection. I think he was also damaged by his war service though he never said much about it. But I still think he should have accepted my unhappiness at school and moved me somewhere more suitable. How hard is it to recognise someone else's unhappiness?

  14. No, I haven't lost you Nick. You got it.

  15. I agree with you that it is not possible to forgive and / or forget under normal circumstances. I think not having to do with the person who has caused some problems for us is a better option. Here too, circumstances may well force situations on us when we may simply have to grin and bear it.

  16. Ramana: Unfortunately you're right, sometimes you have to deal with the person whether you like it or not, and you just have to push the offending behaviour to the back of your mind.

  17. I agree with everything you said Nick .... what get's me is when people say ' Oh, that's just the way they are ' as if that forgives them of everything so I always say, ' if they murdered someone, would you say " that's just the way they are " !!!!! Grrrrr ..... that really does annoy me. XXXX

  18. If someone has made a genuine mistake and is repentant then I can often forgive, but if someone has knowingly done me wrong then I definitely will not.
    Either way I don't forget, and when someone stabs you in the back it's impossible to retain any sort of trust.

  19. Jacqueline: Exactly, "That's just the way they are" is a total cop-out. People are responsible for their behaviour and they can change it if they really want to.

    Dave: Indeed, if someone wrongs you in some way, trust is one thing that goes out of the window.

  20. "Do unto others as you would be done by" was my fathers life motto, except that he modified it slightly to "Do unto others before they do unto you"! Consequently he was "unfriended"(FB) by practically every one in the village. When anyone does me wrong or insults me I just smile sweetly and carry on, until I get round the corner then I explode!

  21. Keith: Your father's amended motto was certainly asking for trouble! I also tend to smile sweetly and carry on when insulted, but the person concerned gets the bare minimum of frosty politeness from then on. I'm not one for exploding, I just simmer quietly inside.

  22. The trouble is that if you don't forgive - or at least accept - and move on then you're the one who will suffer. But it's hard - and as for these people who can forgive, for example, the murderer of their child, well, that's beyond me.

  23. Liz: I may not forgive something, but I don't let it fester either. I just put it to one side and move on. As you say, how can anyone forgive a child-murderer? How can you possibly "understand" it?