Does Forgiveness Really Require Forgetting?

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Forgive and forget. It’s an old phrase that we have heard countless times over the years. But is it truly wisdom?

I suppose that the answer might lie in your interpretation. Stockpiling every hurtful action that ever impacted you over the course of your life would be overwhelmingly negative. The level of ever-increasing pain combined with the cacophony of bad memories drumming around in our minds would overwhelm us. We simply wouldn’t be able to function if we were completely unable to set those heavy thoughts free. In that sense, I can appreciate the sentiment.

However what if we approach the question from a different angle? Should we base our “forgive and forget” / “forgive and no way can I forget” criteria on the severity of the hurt instead? Do we opt to retain loaded memories of those inflictions while choosing to release others? If the action created severe pain, can you truly forget it?

This is a concept that I wrestle with more often than I would prefer. Even though I appreciate the idea of giving a clean slate those who have hurt me deeply, I have yet to master a way to permanently eradicate something that shattered my trust or dishonored my confidence. I can forgive a devastating emotional assault. Been there. Done that. Big freakin’ time.

But forgetting it altogether? Not so much.

I’m not referring to holding a grudge, planning payback, or going full honey badger on the offending party. I’m talking about reality. I don’t pretend that I give trust easily once it has been broken. I don’t at all. I am referring to the bigger picture – really understanding who you are and seeing that other person for who he or she is as well. This is about seeing the behavior patterns and being honest about the likelihood of true contrition and permanent change.

As an example, I want to be bathing suit confident. I fantasize about it. Really. I sometimes thumb through the Athleta catalog that somehow mistakenly finds its way into my mailbox, think mean thoughts about my skinny svelte friends who could wear string bikinis to the grocery store and look fabulous, remember once more that I adore them anyway, and then put the magazine back down so I can pick my fork up again to polish off the last of the cheesecake that is probably in front of me.

If I was a superhero (and I am…), I would have two arch nemeses (arch nemesises???). Sporks (I loathe these plasticware rejects and speak fiercely against them at random) and salads pretending to be meals (I dislike them so much that I once wrote a whole post in protest of the way they have made my plates look sad – https://momentumofjo.com/2017/06/04/salads-even-calories-dont-want-any-part-of-them/ – that’s a serious and somewhat strange commitment to talking smack about veggies). I am never going to willingly grab a spork and dig into my sad salad meal when I have a chance to get an actual piece of acceptable silverware (a fork OR a spoon – NOT BOTH) and eat cake instead.

Are those rational behaviors on my part? Yes. (NO.) Even though I know that I am being a bonehead, do I expect that my behavior is that going to change? No. (NO.) It’s just how I roll. While I may hope to be wiser, smarter, and better when I make my choices, my past history will accurately tell you that you should save your money and avoid stocking up on kale before I visit your home for dinner.

The best predictor of someone’s behavior is not what a person wants to do or what he or she wants to be able to wear out of the Athleta catalog. Your major hint at what is likely to occur is what that person has previously done. People really can change, and that does happen. Lord knows that I am not the same girl I was in college. (Ironically that girl could have shopped at Athleta, but in order to do so, she would have needed to exit the bar scene first – no Athleta for her either.)

Until you begin to see honest ongoing changes that align with your emotional needs, do yourself a huge favor – don’t plan on that happening right away. In truth, change may not come ever.

If someone will genuinely let you into their world, you may have a chance to help them for the positive. Nevertheless you still have to remember that their choices are called their choices for a reason. A person who continually chooses behaviors that hurt you will likely continue that pattern. Some relationships are so destructive that your healthiest option is to set them free / turn them loose / get off the pot / run for the frickin’ hills. Thankfully most relationships can be maintained. Just know that you are dealing an imperfect but probably predictable human. There are instances when something happens one time only but is so devastating or dangerous that your best choice is wishing that person well and completely moving on. Only you can know if you are facing that moment, but if you are, honor your inner knowing and follow the guidance you are receiving.

Forgiveness is an essential element of healing, and the most important part of that healing happens from within. WIth that said, in extreme situations, I don’t necessarily feel that forgetting is as vital. At times, choosing to ignore an assault (emotional, physical, mental) can be a dangerous approach.

Pray for clarity and guidance to help you understand what is a stumble, what is a lesson, and what is a warning.

Hope for the best as you learn to recognize the behavior patterns you are facing within yourself and others. Most people won’t change, and it is unrealistic to expect that of them. Unless you are someone’s parent or guardian, you probably won’t get to make choices on behalf of another. The only actions you can control are your own.

You don’t have to be jaded to see with open eyes nor do you have to wipe the memories clear in order to find healing. Forgetting may not be possible, but thankfully, forgiveness is.

Love and light always – Joanna

***photo credit – Huckleberry Arms

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What Do You Choose?

There have been some extremely rough headlines looping the news over the past few weeks.  I’m certainly not implying that the standard news is a bucket of rainbows and unicorns, but certain stories are under heavy discussion on social media at the moment. I’ve been upset by what I’ve been seeing as well, but I’m not going to detail any specifics of that here.  As a bonus, I’ll delete any comments that appear to be sporting the magical scent of Eau de Pandora’s Box.

However what I will say is this – there is boundless good in the country and in the world.

One month ago, countless residents in my city found themselves several feet under water.  The rain continued to inundate southeastern Texas and the days to come would reveal tremendous losses for so many.

Before the rains ceased, people of all backgrounds were already wading through treacherous waters to help their neighbors. Others were en route to join the rescue efforts.  When the skies cleared, the rest of the community raced to assist anyone in need.

Taking care of our fellow Texans was all that mattered.  There was no distinction of class or color or faith or politics.  People housed family members, friends, and strangers.  The number of volunteers and physical donations were so extensive that shelters had to turn them away repeatedly.  The neighboring states came out in force as well, and support poured in from every corner of the globe.

The hurricane created areas of devastation that brought many of us to our knees from grief.  However the response of love in return was stunningly beautiful.  I sincerely believe that this incredible experience of broad human benevolence was the divine gift of the storm.  A gift such as that is rare and precious and should never ever be forgotten.

The darkest hours often serve as the times when the brightest light can be found.  We stand by each other when the most difficult moments of our lives confront our communities.  The differences vanish, and we see the Truth that we are souls united together in this human experience.

We are going to have our differences – huge differences.  There will be times when we will fiercely disagree with other people’s actions or words.  We will expect all to understand why we are right, and we will try to convince the opposing parties to concur absolutely with our “correct” views.  But as we grow angrier and louder, the lines of division get deeper and more pronounced.

Speaking personally, if you want to try to open my heart to anything at all, approaching me with ferocity and rage is the fastest way to shatter any chance of that happening.  Again I’m not saying that I don’t have strong emotions regarding what is happening.  I just know that I have walked a different path than every other person out there.  We each see the world through our own filters that are based on our personal experiences.

Of course I believe that I’m right (because I am!).  But then again, maybe I’m just right for what I personally know at this moment.  My responses to situations years ago seemed correct at the time, but they would not necessarily be the same as the responses I would have today.  Taking it a step further, I am genuinely saddened at some of the choices I made in the past, and if I was in the same situations today, I wouldn’t repeat those mistakes.  But I didn’t see it that way then.

We don’t have to agree, and if we did, I would be letting you know what’s correct (because as my husband can confirm, I have all the answers).  It shouldn’t take a mass tragedy to reveal the best parts of ourselves and of those around us.

So for this moment right now, I want to soften my own heart.  I’m going to turn my attention to the immeasurable good that I have experienced since the hurricane while I also remember the innumerable times I felt it before the storm.  I need to turn off the noise of the media and tune out the focus on a degradation of our communities.  There are endless numbers of beautiful true stories to be found.  If we choose to fixate on anything else, that’s on us.

Recognize that you will make different choices because your perspective is not the same as anyone else’s.  This is part of the grand design.  If you don’t like a choice someone else makes, make a different one.  If you are hurt by a person’s actions, don’t replicate the behavior.  If you really want to be heard by another, try truly listening to them first.  Your anger will never soften another person’s heart nor will it heal your own hurts.  But your sincere love and compassion just might.

Love and light always – Joanna

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