Learning to Forget

22 May

Many years ago, I had an elderly friend that was always cheerful, and happy. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with her, and talk with her about her life. Once we discussed a difficult time when her husband made some choices that hurt her deeply. I asked her how she coped, and she said, “I distinctly remember forgetting about that,” and she laughed. She said she had forgiven him for his decisions, had forgotten about them, and moved on.

We hear the saying, “Forgive and forget,” frequently. For many of us forgiving someone who has hurt us is possible, but the forgetting can be another story. It’s hard to let go of something that has really caused us pain, and truly forget about it. We learn from it as we go forward, and sometimes we want to hang on to it. We’re not really sure that forgetting is in our best interest. After all, if we forget what they’ve done to us, they might do it again.

Is it possible to truly forgive someone without forgetting what they’ve done? Shouldn’t we remember what happened so we are wiser the next time around? What does it actually mean to forget? Is it possible to completely un-remember something? According to the dictionary, to forget can mean to “disregard intentionally” or to “overlook.” Using those suggestions, we don’t have to pretend what hurt us never happened, but can choose not to focus on it anymore going forward. We can disregard it. We can let it go. We can overlook it. Perhaps this is the most effective use of forgetting when we are trying to forgive.

I am sure my friend from long ago well remembered what her husband had done when he hurt her. But she chose to let it go. She decided not to focus on it, or bring it up again. She moved on. If we can do that when someone offends us, forgive them the affront, and then let it go, we can still learn from the experience. We don’t have to completely wipe it from our minds, but we can move on, and not obsess over it. In that way we will be successful in forgiving, and forgetting.

Today if someone offends you, hurts you, or makes you feel bad, you may choose to forgive them. If you do, forget what happened by letting it go. Look at it, learn from it, determine how you’ll manage it, and move on. Keep moving forward.

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