Forgive and Forget?

Many people throughout the ages have spoken of the virtues of forgiveness. Today, let’s look at this most personal, yet universal, of subjects and perhaps add a special twist.

Against whom are you carrying a grudge? Is there someone who has done you a wrong, in some way, and who you just can’t forgive? Have you, yourself, done things that you can’t forgive? When we cannot forgive, we have the tremendous potential of doing incredible damage to our selves, if we don’t let go of these hurts. In order to be fully human, we must learn to forgive and forget.

Confucius said that, “To be wronged is nothing unless you remember it.” He was absolutely right, and here’s why. Every time you remember something bad that happens to you, some wrong that was done to you, you feel those bad feelings all over again. You record the event in the neuron structure of your brain, and it plants itself in your subconscious. You reinforce the neural pathways, keeping that hurt within easy access.

Now the subconscious doesn’t know the difference between a vividly imagined or remembered event and the real thing. It is all “real” to the subconscious. When we subject ourselves, over and over again, to painful, angry memories, eventually our inner system begins to break down. The poison of the not-forgiven hurt and anger attacks from the inside and then makes its way out.

12-step programs often emphasize the importance of forgiveness, because they recognize that forgiveness is the key to action and freedom. Jesus forgave those who crucified him while he was still on the cross. When apartheid ended, South Africa went through a sometimes wrenching forgiveness and reconciliation process, because they knew they could not have a successful future if they were still trapped in the past. Examples of acts of forgiveness are everywhere; we just need to look for them.

When we forgive, we let go of past hurts and open up to wonderful new possibilities. What wonderful possibility awaits you? What do you need to let go of, what do we need to let go of as a society, in order to meet that possibility?