To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes
I am often curious about people’s inability to forgive. I understand that sometimes the hurt is so deep that forgiveness seems nearly impossible. But I also wonder if my definition of forgiveness is skewed. I can do as the saying goes, let bygones be bygones and move on with my life.
My grandmother (Big Mama) used to say all the time that she could forgive such and such for what she’d done but she could never forget it. My mother would get angry and say that if you remember what someone has done then you are not forgiving her/him. At the time I agreed with that statement.
However, I have thought about those words often and I think I have come to terms with them and understand what Big Mama meant by them. I conclude that you can remember the lesson you learned, and still love the person who hurt you. For example, if my friend betrayed a confidence, I could let it go and move on. I wouldn’t hold a grudge. However, if my friend did it a second time, I would continue the relationship, but I wouldn’t trust her with personal confidences any more. Have you ever heard the saying “You hurt me once, shame on you, You hurt me twice, shame on me.” ? I think that applies. I think this is exactly what Big Mama may have meant by forgiving but not forgetting. I also think you may be able to do this by putting yourself in the position of the other person. I don’t think most people hurt others maliciously. I think they often unintentionally put their own needs above others. I know that analyzing a situation helps me understand it and allows me to move past it.
I’m not going judge those who cannot forgive for some inconceivable crime against them. I can’t claim to know their circumstances. But I do know that I have harbored resentment in my heart for past offenses and it stifled me. I was at a stand still in my own life. When I was able to release my anger and my pain and stop pointing blame at anyone, it was cathartic for me. I was able to love myself which enabled me to accept and impart love. In loving again, I was living.
Compassion is much easier on the body and soul a than antipathy. Either feeling is contagious and affects everyone around you. Negative energy blocks the path to peace. An atmosphere of bitterness is repressive where an environment of benevolence is inviting.
My opinion is that the art of forgiveness is the ability to move on.