You have heard it time and again. People tell you to forgive and forget.
And usually we tend not to have a problem understanding what it means to forgive. The part that bothers many is what exactly it means to forget.
Does forgetting mean one wouldn’t remember at all?
Of course not!
Why We Can’t Forget
To start with, it is impossible not to remember at all. That’s because we all have a memory that is functional.
And sometimes we could encounter similar situations that remind us of the incident we are to forget.
Imagine that someone you trusted so much slandered you, just a few years after you had the first of such experience from a friend. Wouldn’t the second experience remind you of that first ordeal?
Some other times, we could experience certain things or be involved in certain activities that act as triggers of the wrong we are to forget.
Take for instance, a lady who had been raped several years ago and had forgotten about it, only to read the news one morning about a barbaric rape. Wouldn’t she remember her own experience?
You see, one would practically have to lose his or her memory not to remember a past wrong at all.
What it Means to Forget
So, what then does it mean to forget?
Here are three ways to understand it.
#1. To forget is not to make reference to the wrong when relating with the offender afterwards
When you forgive someone, you ought not to begin to make reference to that wrong the next moment you see the person or the next time the person offends you. That will simply show that you still keep the hurt to heart.
True forgiveness will be accompanied by a conscious putting behind of the wrong and the hurt such that you relate with the person without the incident interfering.
#2. To forget is to refrain from broadcasting the wrong to the end of destroying the image of the offender
After claiming to forgive, some people still go about broadcasting the offender and what he or she did, to everyone who cares to listen.
And that is usually done with the aim of tarnishing whatever good reputation the individual has.
That’s not right. And it no way aligns with true forgiveness. In fact, the Holy Spirit in us would cringe at the sight of that.
It’s a way of paying back.
And God does not approve of such. Scripture says, ‘Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.’ (Romans 12:19).
#3. To forget is to no longer feel bitter towards the offender about the wrong even when the memory of the incident rears up again
Whether a trigger pops up to remind you of a nasty offence or it’s a similar incidence that shows up, when you do remember the wrong, you do so with no ill feelings. It does not stir any desire to get even with the person or do anything bad.
Even if it’s the person that actually comes around, you feel no resentment, bitterness or hatred towards him or her.
That is what it means to forgive and forget.
Something to Remember
After forgiving and forgetting however, one should not forget the vital lessons from the incidence.
That’s what Thomas Szasz meant when he said, “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”
The wise forgive and deliberately forget the pain and trauma associated with the wrong but they do not forget the realities it brought to the fore.
They do not forget the lessons it taught them. They draw upon it in to be cautious in their relations and interactions with people.
In that sense alone, will you be right to forgive and not forget.
Ogaga Eruteya is a Nigerian Christian minister, writer and speaker. He writes on Faith, Personal Development, Youth Development, and Life Realities. With his words, he seeks to inspire, motivate, propagate life’s truths and represent a sincere Christian voice. Learn more about Ogaga here.