A common New Year’s resolution is to “Forgive and forget!” It is an adage often offered compassionately to those who may find it hard to move on after experiencing some hurt or pain. But how hard it is to FORGET!
Our wounds and bruises are more than emotional, especially when they were caused by someone we trusted, supported and loved. When we are hurt, forgetting is not the first nor the easiest thing that our hearts nurture.
So how can we help ourselves and perhaps, others who are going through the difficult road towards forgiveness, with minds and hearts genuinely agonizing to forget?
What could be some steps to embrace and incarnate our Lord’s most beautiful commandment: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you. In this, shall all men know you are my disciples?”
Start with forgetting…
• Forgetting oneself.
An important but a rather harsh step considering that we are the subjects of an injustice, gossip or infidelity.
In reality, it is beginning to accept what God in His providence may have allowed, and humbling ourselves rather than rebelling against God whom we may blame for our situation.
Our pride will always want to have the last say and way.
Thus, it is important to place the self before God, and ponder how He may want the circumstances to transform us.
• Forgiving oneself.
This unique step stems from the previous one. By being humble, we move towards the sincere awareness and acceptance that we are sinners also needing forgiveness.
There is our share of asking others for pardon for our own transgressions, even though minor, are nevertheless still offenses against others (e.g. impatience in traffic, critical, judgmental thoughts or uncharitable comments). Before God, we must humbly admit that we too have been lacking in love.
Remembering helps to forgive…
• Remembering to forgive.
Man, because of his memory, cannot easily forget or erase past events! But by spontaneously remembering, that is, without vengefully eliciting past injustices or attacks, he can actually grow in forgiving.
On one hand, one may transform these remembrances as deeper levels of acceptance and forgiveness of one’s offenders.
Moreover, they can nurture a simple and deep resolve to put these negative events behind and to move on.
• Remembering the experience of forgiveness.
We cannot forgive if we have not experienced forgiveness itself. One of the deepest ways is to confess one’s sins, and especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As God’s prodigal sons and daughters we once again embraced by His mercy to begin anew.
• Peeling away our feelings. One sign of growing in forgiveness is gradually learning how to “peel away the feelings” attached to past trials.
This sincere effort demonstrates our healing because negative memories are no longer employed to rekindle new passions that only harden our hearts from forgiving.
• Forgive, give and give. One very effective way to overcome our hurts is giving ourselves.
This closes the circle from the first step of forgetting oneself.
Each time we remember or relive some regrettable past event, our reaction must be to renew our self-giving in three “gives”: to God, neighbors and ourselves.
• Cordial crossroads. Meeting again the person(s) responsible for our hurts may truly reawaken anger or hatred. We are not obliged to test ourselves with situations that we may not still be ready to emotionally and spiritually engage. At the least, let us be cordial and channel our sentiments with the hope and prayer that the other party may be on the way to conversion.
Perhaps, there is wisdom in the adage that forgiving comes before forgetting. It means that as long as we live, with God’s grace, we must strive to constantly forgive.
Thus, our conversion is not anchored in “forgetfulness,” because its value is nothing compared to forgiving. Forgiving, unlike forgetting, increases the heart’s capacity to love.
And the heart is renewed daily by forgiving because it is transformed into love, the love Christ offered upon the cross.