“True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’” ~ Oprah Winfrey
We’re all familiar with the expression, “Forgive and forget.”
Its meaning resonated deeply with me when I made my way out of a dismal relationship. I repeated it to myself like a mantra until I believed it.
It took me a while to realize that forgiving and forgetting don’t always come of their own accord. Both are related to memories, and our thoughts control the memories that stay alive in our minds.
And so, I chose to forgive you—I had to. It was critical for my emotional and mental well-being.
We think we are indirectly punishing people for their wrongdoings when we refuse to forgive them. And this was precisely what I did. At the beginning of our separation, it was almost arduous to forgive you. When I relaxed into the calm after the storm, I had the choice to take the path of forgiveness—but I simply chose not to. I replayed our dreadful memories in my mind to wreak vengeance on you.
It wasn’t long before I understood that I wasn’t taking revenge out on you—I was taking it all out on me.
By not forgiving you, I only hurt myself. The memories transformed from an arrow that was aimed at you to a burden that fell heavily on my shoulders. It was satisfying to my ego that happily floated in the ocean of sorrow.
However, not forgiving you stunted my own personal growth. No one can peacefully walk with something as heavy as miserable memories—they’re the heaviest baggage we can carry.
As my ego drowned in the deep waters of agony, I rose on the opposite shore. Forgiveness naturally came when I opted for a happier, peaceful life. I’m no longer waiting for karma to work its magic. I’m not waiting for you to discern why our relationship failed.
As simple as it sounds, I forgive you. But I won’t forget—just for the moment.
The truth is, forgiving is one thing and forgetting is something else. Forgiveness has to do with comfort, whereas forgetting deals with matters of our own feelings of safety. Sometimes, when we entirely forget our past miseries, we tend to unconsciously repeat them again. With forgetting comes the price of another lesson that repeats itself until we get it once and for all.
With remembrance, I’m only safeguarding myself. I simply don’t want to be a victim of emotional pain again. Remembering our past is the fence I’m building around myself against future miseries.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Remembering dismal memories isn’t always bad. I’m not dwelling on whatever has gone awry. I’m not thinking about it 24/7 and I’m not lamenting with a box of tissues by the window. I will simply remember the unhappy bits every once in a while with a smile on my face and a feeling of personal strength in my heart.
I am thankful for where I am standing today. Occasionally, it is of benefit to remember the past if it serves us to be stronger in the present moment. And so, I want to use my past as a stepping stone to a brighter future. Our memories together are only serving as a ladder that’s leading me to love myself in ways I haven’t before.
I won’t forget now because I’m still building myself. Not forgetting is forging a voice within me that was silent. Not forgetting is giving me courage and strength—and I need the two for a better me.
Forgetting is not really a destination. However, it’s a journey that one slowly takes—and I’m currently on it.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Stephen Brace/Flickr
Editor: Caitlin Oriel