Thursday, 19 July 2018

Forgive and forget

It astonishes me what some people can forgive - even the most appalling and extreme behaviour that on the face of it seems totally unforgiv-able.

Personally I don't forgive or forget easily. Why would I forgive someone who's deliberately and knowingly treated me badly and thought that was okay? I won't forgive and forget, though at the same time I don't nurse grudges and I don't get sour and bitter. I just put it behind me and get on with my life.

Yet other people are able to forgive the most shocking things and just carry on as normal as if nothing has happened. Or at least nothing that awful.

A Texan woman, Nancy Shore, says she has forgiven her ex-husband Frank for having a secret mistress for three years, hiring a hit man to murder her, causing her to lose her left eye after being shot in the head, and denying he had anything to do with the attack.

She is a devout Christian and attributes her ability to forgive to her deep faith. She says she still loves him and would have tried to rebuild the relationship if he hadn't been found guilty and jailed.

Of course you can never be sure how you would react in some entirely unexpected situation such as that one, but I really couldn't see myself forgiving Jenny for hiring a hit man or having a clandestine three-year affair. How could I forgive such systematic deceit and deviousness and hatred? I'm amazed that anyone could.

Yes, we're all human, we all do dreadful things, we all act abominably at times, but outrageous behaviour on that scale? It implies such sheer contempt for his wife.

It's not the first time I've read of someone forgiving something utterly indefensible, and it won't be the last. It always has me scratching my head in disbelief.

Pic: Nancy Shore

36 comments:

Rummuser said...

I too find forgiving difficult and cannot really believe those who claim to have forgiven serious offences.

Bijoux said...

I guess it depends on your definition of forgiveness. She said she doesn't want to be burdened with bitterness and just wants to move on. That makes sense to me. She is lucky to be alive, so rather than dwelling on the horrific ex, she's moving forward. Good for her!

helen devries said...

Forgive...yes, with a bit of a struggle.
Forget? Never.

nick said...

Ramana: I find it hard to believe too, but people's minds and emotions work in very different ways....

Bijoux: Oh, I can move on and leave the past behind even if I don't forgive the person concerned.

nick said...

Helen: I can only forgive people if I know they genuinely couldn't help themselves, that they were in the grip of some malign force they had absolutely no control over.

Joanne Noragon said...

Never forgetting puts those conditions on forgiveness that you outline.

John Gray said...

I bet there are a few readers just itching to comment on this doosie

tammy j said...

a late friend and I argued a point on this. and Joanne Noragon touched on it.
my friend said she had forgiven her ex husband but she will never forget what he did. well... what is forgiveness but wiping the slate clean so to speak?
and I said as long as she was remembering it and carting it out for anyone to see and talking about it … how is that forgiving him? seems to me if she forgave him she would forget it all too? they were divorced and never saw each other.
I don't know! it's a kerrfluffalump! too deep for me. I suppose one thing about a bad memory... maybe you forget all of it sooner or later. so there is nothing you have to forgive! LOL!

nick said...

Joanne: Well, I guess you can forgive someone and still remember what they did.

John: I wonder? I see you didn't want to comment yourself....

nick said...

Tammy: I don't agree. You can forgive someone for, say, having a secret affair, while still remembering it. And remembering it doesn't necessarily mean remembering with bitterness or resentment.

Danielle L Zecher said...

I'm not really the forgive and forget type, either. Something that serious, in my opinion, tells you who a person really is. It doesn't sound like there was much of a relationship there to rebuild, but if forgiving him makes it easier for her to move on with her life, good for her.

CheerfulMonk said...

From Wikipedia:

'Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, forswears recompense from or punishment of the offender, however legally or morally justified it might be, and with an increased ability to wish the offender well."

A few years ago a friend I had known for years suddenly turned on me and started being publicly nasty--- first on my blog, then when that made other people uncomfortable and I stopped her comments, in emails to others. I figured it was because of problems she was having in her life and cut off ties and wished her well. On the other hand, those ties are cut, no sense being stupid about it.

tammy j said...

" And remembering it doesn't necessarily mean remembering with bitterness or resentment. "
well as usual... I didn't think it through. I hadn't thought of perhaps the remembering with anything but bitterness! so good point. I also like Monk's last sentence! lol.

helen devries said...

I don't find that not forgetting it places a limit on foregiveness...I can forgive the hurt caused me eventually when I have chewed it all over...but I don't forget it happened....

nick said...

Danielle: Yes, I guess that's the crucial factor - whatever helps you to move on with your life. Whether that's forgiving, forgetting, not bearing grudges or some other approach.

Jean: I've been through the same thing - someone I was very friendly with suddenly turning against me. It's painful but you just have to accept the rejection and move on.

nick said...

Tammy: It's alarming how many people can only remember bad experiences with bitterness and self-pity. It doesn't have to be that way.

Helen: As I say, I can forgive people if they genuinely "know not what they do". But deliberate bad treatment is another matter.

kylie said...

Nick,
Forgiveness is required of people who call themselves Christian. Not suggested but REQUIRED by God. The things to know about forgiveness are:

1. It's for our own good. Modern psychology backs this and of course the idea of God as a deity who has our best at heart would be right to require it

2. Forgiveness doesn't mean excusing a behaviour, it just means refusing to allow it to make us bitter and control our future behaviour

3. One can forgive but at the same time decide to terminate the relationship for our own sake. Forgiving does not require us to become door mats.

What's that quote about not forgiving being the same as drinking poison?

kylie said...

One more thing that I have found important: part of forgiveness means never raising the matter again. I have been hurt plenty of times and I remember some of them but I don't bring it up because it would be damaging to me and to my relationship with the person who hurt me (assuming we still have any kind of relationship)
I feel like people forget this part

nick said...

Kylie: I think I would find it hard to forgive, say, Hitler for murdering most of my family. And I'm not sure my psyche would benefit from doing so.

I've always understood forgiveness to mean exactly that, excusing someone on the grounds of mental weakness or compulsion or outside pressure or whatever.

I agree that forgiveness doesn't imply continuing with an abusive or otherwise negative relationship.

Saying not forgiving is like poison is a bit over the top. Poison can actually kill you, but not forgiving is just a non-acceptance and rejection of what the person did.

nick said...

Kylie: I agree about not raising the matter again. But the same applies if you don't forgive, you can still put it behind you and not keep nursing it. Which is what I do myself.

kylie said...

Nick,
The worse the wrong committed against a person, the more they have to benefit from forgiving. Forgiving is entirely about freeing one's self, that is why it is possible to forgive someone who acted abominably and wilfully.

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die. Marianne Williamson

kylie said...

Nick, please read and process what i have said. If you move on without bitterness, that is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an emotional state of feeling ok about a person, it is a state created by discipline, declining to wallow.

nick said...

Kylie: I understand what you're saying, that it's about freeing yourself from the negativity of what you've experienced. And I understand what you're saying about it being a state of mind and not an emotion. And as I understand it, you're saying it's nothing to do with excusing someone or explaining why they did what they did, it's only about breaking the (emotional) bond between you and what was done to you. Or "letting go", as eastern religion would put it?

Haddock said...

After reading that (Texan woman) I too was scratching my head in disbelief.

nick said...

Haddock: It's extraordinary. But read what Kylie says about the meaning of forgiveness.

Suburbia said...

Thats really interesting Nick. I had a conversation (rather heated) with my mother recently. It was about forgiveness and whether forgiveness makes you a victim or a survivor. I guess each situation is different but it is an interesting subject. Thanks for posting.

nick said...

Suburbia: Indeed, are you a victim or a survivor? If you feel better for having forgiven someone, and feel you've left a lot of emotional baggage behind, then I guess you're a survivor. If you feel worse, then you're a victim and need to take some further action.

chloe said...

It's called resiliance. For me nothing to do with Christian faith or other religious believings. What does it bring to dwell on a past situation? It doesn't change whatever happened and only poison your life.

nick said...

Chloe: I agree, dwelling on a negative experience only prolongs the malign effects. Better to put it behind you as soon as possible.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think forgiveness is generally for the forgiver and not the forgiven. Or at least as I define it - I see forgiveness as letting go of bitterness and a need for vengeance. It has nothing to do with condoning what has been done to you or allowing it to happen again.

nick said...

Agent: Letting go of bitterness and a need for vengeance has always been my response to being badly treated, but I've always seen that as just level-headed pragmatism rather than forgiveness. My idea of forgiveness was obviously out of line with other people's.

Joared said...

I’m all for cutting the ties and moving on with life as there are certainly behaviors where I draw the line. Forgetting some things seems unlikely but is best to not allow brooding on the matter or nursing the memory of being wronged.

nick said...

Joared: "Cutting the ties" is exactly right - the negative emotional ties to what happened. However upsetting the behaviour was, constantly harping back to it serves no useful purpose.

Liz Hinds said...

There are lots of instances of Christians calling on their faith to forgive a hideous crime. I'm not at all sure that I could. I struggle to forgive comparatively minor offences on occasion.

I remember my daughter being bullied by her ex-friend and the murderous thoughts I had about that child ... mother tiger.

You probably know I lead a bible study and I am always amazed at how simple it seems to be for some people. I read something about anger or unforgiveness and inevitably someone will say, 'pray about it, or 'give it to God,' and I think, 'Well, I've done that and it doesn't work for me.'

Obviously I don't do it properly, still holding on to a bit. But does that mean everyone else is so much better than me at it? Or less honest? I suspect - and hope - the latter.

Liz Hinds said...

Just read some of the comments. We are told to forgive but not to forget. We have to learn from our experiences. God gave us brains to use.

And I agree with whoever said it that not forgiving is probably going to cause you more pain than it does anyone else. The person who wronged you will have moved on - and forgotten probably - while you've left simmering inside.

I really don't think I could forgive Husband if he hired a hitman!!

nick said...

Liz: I suspect many people aren't being honest when they claim to find it easy to forgive people. Especially if they've wronged you many times over a long period. Which is why I've never forgiven the boys who bullied me over and over at boarding school.

That's a good point, that the other person may have totally forgotten what they did to you, so to keep on simmering inside achieves nothing whatever.