Last year during a very difficult time in our family I had an encounter with a member of my extended family. She was very angry about not being told right away about my stepmother’s cancer diagnosis. Why she was not told is not germane to this discussion but there was a reason, right or wrong. While she was very crossly explaining to me why her anger was justified she told me “we will forgive but not forget, ” the we referring to herself and her husband.
That statement has stuck with me since, I remember saying to her, “that doesn’t sound like forgiving to me.” There was no response to that statement only a continued diatribe justifying why she was right and we were wrong. I do believe it would be very difficult to absolutely forget a situation where someone feels wronged. I have forgiven a very painful situation from my past and while I haven’t forgotten it, when I do remember it, there is no bitterness or resentment attached anymore so I guess I remember it with grace.
Today a friend said she was contemplating the words forgive and forget and how both words have give and get in them and how interesting that is and what does that tell us. I thought how profound her observation was, to forgive is in essence giving, when you forgive someone you are give-ing a gift to those you forgive. When you forget you really are get-ting peace of mind.
Of course I flashed back to the encounter I shared with my extended family and I remember when I was talking to her I felt an overwhelming sadness for her and her husband. I knew at that moment no matter what I said they were choosing this path of not forgetting and I believe not forgiving. Regrettably they no longer speak to any of us.
So what does it mean to forgive and forget?
Well the interesting thing is forgiveness and let’s say graceful forgetting has very profound health benefits according to recent studies published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. I think the biggest obstacle people have with forgiveness is the feeling that if they forgive they are saying whatever the other person did is ok with them. Actually I do not believe that is the case and truly the act is not what is forgiven. In my case I connected with our creator and said I have been wronged but I trust you, you got me through this and now I need to continue on to do your work and unburden myself of this resentment. In a way if I had not forgiven it was as if I was now perpetrating an ongoing wrong against myself.
In my own situation the act that resulted in my forgiveness was quite grave. So I did not condone the behavior then, and I do not condone that kind of behavior today, but I still forgive the person. I can also give testament to the health benefits of forgiveness and graceful forgetting. Immediately after I truly forgave the person I felt lighter, as if weight was removed from my shoulders. Occasionally I have had to be near the person that wronged me, and while I generally choose not to, because they are a member of my family there are rare times it would be very complicated to avoid. So I make sure it is a safe situation, but I no longer feel any resentment, anger or dread.
I noticed right away after this act of forgiveness I was able to “get” more in my life. My relationships benefited because my interactions were no longer clouded by this haze of umbrage. I began to notice that I could more fully engage in relationships, it was as if, until I could forgive the one person that wronged me, everyone else was being judged as a potential co-conspirator. I know forgiveness is not easy and forgetting with grace is even more challenging.
Consider this, what if I told you that if you trained and ran one marathon you could add ten years to your life, you would have stronger relationships and you would feel better about yourself; would you take on that challenge? Interestingly I think many would feel more inclined to run a marathon than let go of a well entrenched injustice. I believe you can add years to your life through practicing authentic forgiveness, and it’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality of those years that you will be adding.
We get so caught up in drinking the right water, taking the right supplements, eating organic, or not eating this or that to improve our health and I happen to be one of those people who does all these things. But I also look at the other side of my well-being, my mental health. Many of us focus on exercise and nutrition but overlook the most accessible way to improve our health and station in life, a well-balanced mental health.
Give the gift of forgiveness, forget with grace and receive love, peace and expand your universe beyond your wildest dreams. What are you holding on to that its time has come to let go? Where does your power lie, in the keeping or the getting?
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~ Paul Boese
Being responsible is so powerful. So why is it so damn scary sometimes. I have no problem taking responsibility for some things but when relationships go awry – well lets just say that little girl inside me comes out. Hey, I didn’t do it, they did. Uh-uh it wasn’t me, it’s their fault. Exit stage right, save my seat on the Avoidance Express.
I am great about taking one for the team when a project goes bad, although as a manager the buck does stop with me so there are no heroics at work here. But ask me to take one for the team in a relationship that has gone south soooorrry ain’t gonna happen. (Ok for those folks that know me; Shane and I are still happily married, and Geri and I are still happily partnered. This tail has nothing to do with them. Ok for those folks that don’t know me; Geri is my business partner. There, that should clean up any housekeeping related issues.)
So going against my typical grain, I recently took responsibility for my part in a very uncomfortable relationship. And lets just say while I may have gone kicking and screaming to this end, hey I eventually got there. The amazing thing is that even though I had to admit some uncomfortable truths about myself, I can’t believe how great I feel, that hair shirt I was wearing is gone, that loaded pack has been shed and I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.
Does that mean that there has been some miraculous change no, not really. I mean the change for me was in my perception of the situation. Why do I go right to other people’s intent being malicious? I am not big on the hair shirt thing so I am asking, not to flog myself, or make myself wrong, but to really understand what drives that interpretation. What switch deep inside me gets tripped when I go down this road?
Well if you are waiting for some profound cathartic insight that I have discovered, I am going to disappoint you. I haven’t quite figured out why I do this, but I can share that my awareness helps me recognize when I do this. You may be asking, ok, so what the heck does that do for you. Think of it this way, we don’t know why tornadoes strike but when we are aware that one is on the ground we can take action to try to minimize injury. Similarly the moment I recognize or become aware that switch inside has been tripped, it’s almost like a short-circuit occurs, and the energy going to my destructive response center is cut off.
Having awareness and being responsible still takes will power and personal integrity and in the spirit of transparency I admit I still have moments where I am aware and yet still choose to be a butt head. Hey I am a work in progress, hmmmm just like everyone else. So I have to develop my muscle around personal responsibility, by exercising it regularly.
The moment I recognized the power of taking responsibility it was amazing it really woke up all my senses, it reminded me of when I step outside on a clear, cool, brisk morning and I take those first few breaths of that cold air filling my lungs and I look up at that blue sky and feel so alive and grateful. That alive, light, refreshing feeling is the motivator that drives me to do better.
That and a good laugh at myself keeps me moving in the right direction. I think the best thing anyone can do for themselves is really laugh at their follies. I think we all take ourselves too seriously which in turn drives us to take everyone else so seriously. For heaven’s sake we are all flawed. I am saying this as is if it an absolute truth I accept, however, my essence has to remind my ego of this everyday. So as I traveled this recent path of recognizing my responsibility I also had a good laugh at my myself. Not to minimize myself but to minimize my objections, that in the end really were not what was or is important.
I think all of us have at least one example of a relationship gone bad in our lives. This creates toxic energy that is harmful to us and possibly the other person involved. If this is bringing to mind a relationship you want to shift, I invite you to explore your responsibility in the situation. You do not have to take any responsibility for someone else’s behavior, I am only speaking of your own. You are only responsible for your actions. Take ownership of your part.
I got hung up on focusing on the other persons bad behavior, but once I took a good look at my response, I discovered I was also engaged in my own bad behavior. I enjoyed when others would “prove” or “confirm” my judgements. So I would engage in evidencing my justification of my disapproval or dislike. Some people call that splitting and pairing, some call it gossiping, some call it passive aggressive, any way you look at it or describe it, I think we all can agree it’s not very empowering.
I am certainly not advocating anyone should engage in a relationship where they are being treated poorly. Just take responsibility for your actions. You will be amazed how you feel not only when you are with that person but about yourself as a result. And what if the other persons behavior does not change? That’s ok, this is your awareness, your journey not theirs. I can promise you that at least half of the negative energy fuelling the discord will be gone, and that is better than the alternative.
Responsibility is powerful, awareness is powerful. Remember people and events that challenge us are lessons that we are here to learn. It is a challenge to see difficulty as a blessing or gift but they are the gifts that remain with us throughout our life.