When To Forget
by Gina Valley
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.
There’s nothing like it.
We all mess up. I’m practically Olympian in my mess up skills. Knowing that my mess ups are forgiven is my saving grace.
I often have trouble forgiving myself for my mess ups. Knowing that people who love me and the God who made me forgive my many, many goofs is freeing and life-giving.
Being forgiven is a wonderful thing to think about.
Thinking about forgiving someone else, though, is a whole different ball game.
It’s not easy.
Don’t get me wrong; I follow the example set before me, and forgive other people when they mess up. It’s after I’ve forgiven someone that’s hardest for me.
That whole “forgive and forget” thing is great in theory, but much harder in reality.
How do we forget a serious wrong? And should we? Is forgiveness behaving as though the offense never happened? Is that even humanly possible to do?
I had a close relative betray me a couple years ago. This person’s behavior not only put my business and, more importantly, my children’s safety, at risk, but also revealed that this person was willing to lie and cheat to get her own way.
It broke my heart when I found out. I actually was physically ill with grief over this person’s behavior. I was so sad to realize that she was willing to put my children at risk, and to encourage her own children to be dishonest to help get what she wanted.
I also developed some serious anger toward this person, as I came to realize that I would have to do a lot of work restructuring in both my personal and business lives because of her behavior.
I did forgive her. And, I told her as much. I didn’t even wait for an apology from her for her terrible breach, which, as it turns out, she has yet to offer.
However, she has accused me of not forgiving her. She says that because I am not treating her as though it never happened, I have not forgiven her.
That point of view gives me pause.
I generally think of forgiving in terms of behaving as though the offense did not occur, something I think all parents, particularly those of teenagers, are quite well-practiced in doing.
But, this is one of those cases where I don’t think it is possible to “forget” the offense. I think it would be foolish, not unforgiving, to give this person the access to my familial, personal, and business information she once had. I think the whole “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” thing applies.
I make it a point to be kind to her and her family. But, they no longer have access to my home, nor direct access to my children. They are all completely removed from any connection with my professional dealings.
My anger over this is long since gone. I’m wiser. I’m more vigilant. And, I believe I have forgiven this person.
But, I have not forgotten.
So, a part of me always wonders, “Have I completely forgiven her?”
I do believe the gift of forgiveness is received by the forgiver as much as by the forgive-ee. I believe forgiving wrongs prevents bitterness and resentment, even when apologies are never even offered by the offender. I think a life that holds onto wrongs sinks into mire and unhappiness, and destroys relationships. So, it’s important to me to forgive and to let go.
How do you define forgiveness? What prompts you to offer it? How do you handle the whole “forgive & forget” premise when it’s a serious offense? I’m looking forward to hearing what you think, and how you protect your relationships with forgiveness.
Be sure to shoot me a comment. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think. And, as always, thank you for reading.