Does Forgiveness Really Require Forgetting?

elk

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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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A Better Response

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My arms may be hairy, but the good news is that I’ll never need a coat during winter.

Do you ever dream of being young again to return to that wonderful age when you were on the cusp of puberty and surrounded by children who rejoiced in each other’s differences? Yeah. Me neither. But as is the way of being a small human, my three children are current residents of Kidville and will remain so for the next several years.

Our youngest child stays busy during the weekdays at the daycare (and our firm belief is that she rules that place each day in her standard tyrannical style with pig tails a-bobbin’ as she bosses around her classmates).  Our oldest is in middle school and is happy (today) (middle school can only be evaluated in daily increments at most). And then there’s our middle child. She is currently working on her last year of elementary school and has started to become self-conscious about her body. One might expect that she would also have achieved some cognizance regarding the need to wear her shirt the right way or possibly brushing more than a one inch section of her hair, but those details have yet to make the awareness cut.  

Nevertheless she has become fixated on the hair on her arms. She doesn’t look a human wolf and the circus has yet to call. She just has a little arm hair. As fate would have it, some random boy in her school approached her at the end of today’s school day and teased her about it. Being a tweenager goofball, he could have said anything at all, but of course that was the one he had to pick. He walked off before she could come up with a response, and she came home heart-broken.

The thing is this – I’m a mama bear when it comes to my kids (and potentially my arms as well), so my instant response was to tell her to be put on a tough face and stand up to the other child. I don’t mean that I told her to get busy whacking him in his crown with those Rapunzel-esque limbs. I told her that what he said was ridiculous, and she should just come back with a sassy response in return or maybe just feign a reaction of utter boredom should he attempt such lame insults again. I even tried to get her to practice with me, but she wasn’t having any of that. As feisty as she can be, she doesn’t have that warrior spitfire coursing through her veins (see “her mom” or “her tyrannical 3-year-old sister” for reference). She is basically a human fairy, and someone stomped on her fuzzy little wings. Seeing her little heart aching hurt me more than she could ever imagine.

You think that you are grown up and that you are so happy to be free of all the emotional complexities (a.k.a. garbage / crapola) that goes with being a child in school. As an adult, you do get attacked at times, but ultimately, you can choose to put space between you and any of those bullies of the world. You may not like the consequences, but you can walk. That’s one of the best parts about being an adult. But then you have a kid. And that kid goes to school. And someone you can’t control says something cruel and hurtful to your kid.

And because your child is effectively your heart walking around outside of your body, you hurt as much as if it was said directly to you.

So my response to her came from a defensive place. It wasn’t all “I am rubber. You are glue…” We did have an extensive conversation about his insecurity. I explained the real possibility that the boy might have actually thought that she was pretty and just didn’t know what to say. We also talked about how completely inaccurate his comments were and that she couldn’t let another person’s hollow and mean words tear down her self-image. (We did not discuss the reality that those kinds of comments will always hurt and that we spend our lives fighting with self image deficiencies. That felt a little heavy for the fuzzy arms talk.) Clearly my words impacted her deeply because her eyes glazed over and she said blandly, “Where are the Frosted Flakes?”

Sigh.

The truth is that she is a beautiful girl with gorgeous dark eyes and olive skin (the stinker!). She is not a furball, but she does have fuzzy arms. Her fuzz happens to be from dark hair while mine are fuzzy with light hair. It bugs her, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary at all. The other truth is that the picture above is of my arm, but that’s not my arm hair.  That’s my dog’s tail. We are both blondish, so it worked for me. Unfortunately it seriously weirded out the poor dog.

The real problem is that my daughter is going to be a serious headache for her father and me when her teenage bod kicks in. I have visions of her leaving for school one junior high morning and then exiting the building later that same day in slow motion with the wind blowing and an Aerosmith song playing in the background. It worries the crap out of me how pretty she might be. Thankfully for now, there is only standard motion, and Minecraft is her theme song. I’ll take that as long as I can.

So I called another mama / confidant whom I completely trust. She’s a precious friend and an adultier adult. (Another dear friend once told me that sometimes we need to seek adultier adults to help with various situations, and she was right on target.) Her suggestion was for me to sit with my daughter and focus on sending prayers for the other’s child’s insecurities to heal. I know. It’s almost exactly the same as what I said, right? Her suggestion to “Send light and love to the child who is clearly hurting” was  almost word for word the same as “Come up with a better come back, and maybe roll your eyes and yawn.” So close, yes???

Well at least God sent me an actual grown up to help me navigate the parenting waters I like to refer to as “Me and My Issues.” I’m not even really angry with the other child. His words were a reflection of his insecurity and lack of kid filters. My daughter will turn into a mega-babe (much to my dismay), and his words will be small potatoes relative to other hurts she will face.

I want to find better ways to help my children to avoid empowering the unimportant stuff. I hope to teach them how to acknowledge the untruths for what they are and to learn to dismiss the malicious words of others. I want for us all to respond from a place of love rather than a place of hurt. I pray that my mama bear within is reading this post, but I also know that she’s a beast and that I will fail dismally more times than I can imagine. But for now, I’m going to try. So I’m going to locate my inner grown up, and we will send love and light to that other child.

However if that kid messes with her again tomorrow…

(I’m just kidding!)

(I hope.)

😉  Joanna

Taking Back Your Self-Worth – Releasing Another’s Unkindness

STONE

Sticks and stones have yet to break my bones, but words have left me reeling on countless occasions.  Many of us were raised to speak kindly and ignore harsh comments from others, but as we all know, it’s not quite that cut and dry.

I’m going to share a personal story that very few people in my life have heard.  Congratulations internet – you are now part of The Circle of Secrecy.  (Apparently The Circle is quite large.)  (Also I feel like it would be disingenuous if I didn’t clarify that there are actually additional Circles within The Circle.)

When I was in high school, I participated in a program that allowed several students and teachers to spend a couple of weeks with various families in Asia.  It was incredible, eye-opening, and beautiful beyond words.  Experiences like that change you forever in ways that you couldn’t imagine.  Sadly, the trip also left me with a memory that I can’t forget either.  It may seem small, but it had a tremendous impact on me.

The flight from Texas to Japan took about 500 hours (give or take about 485 hours).  We were antsy teenagers, and while we were excited to be going, it took foreeeeveeeer to get there.  100 or so hours into the flight, I started talking to the guys sitting on either side of me.  I wasn’t looking for love in all the wrong places.  I was just bored, so I chatted with the adjacent humans.  Unfortunately they were also bored and got trashed with the adjacent liquor bottles.  It wasn’t my favorite spot to be in, but I didn’t know what else to do.  It was an exchange program, but the exchange option did extend to my seat number.

Eventually the men became extremely rowdy, so one of the head administrators of the school called me over to sit in a seat in the row in front of him and his wife.  Another staff member moved to take my seat instead.  That was 100% fine by me.  I re-seated my seat, buckled my buckle, and the plane kept plane-ing.  Nothing could have been worse than their obnoxious behavior, so I was incredibly relieved to be elsewhere.

Until I heard this spoken softly by the administrator to his wife in the row behind me…

“That Joanna is a total slut.”

I can’t tell you how much it hurts me to repeat such base words of intense unkindness spoken about me by a leading administrator of my school.  There was zero truth in them.  I may have been brash and loud, but I truly was an innocent child.  Overhearing those poisonous words from this respected person of authority made me feel like trash.

I have kept this story close because it is something I have wanted so badly to forget.  It’s one small utterance, but it scratches my heart raw.  Someone who knew absolutely nothing about me saw that when he looked my way.  He thought I was low.

My mistake was not speaking to the two faceless men.  My mistake was listening the one whose face I can’t forget.

In his defense, he was not a bad man at all.  On the contrary, he was a very good man who did countless wonderful things to help many students.  While he was utterly wrong about me, I don’t know of any other student that he failed over the years.  I want to believe that he was stressed while watching the whole scene from several rows over.  He misunderstood my not being able to deflect those inebriated jackasses as an invitation on my part.  He misunderstood the situation, but more than anything, he misunderstood me.  I never called him out on those words, but I have often wished that I had for my own sake.  In truth though, it doesn’t matter.

Even though I knew then that what he said was not true, it still tore down my self-image.  That poison has coursed through my spirit for years.  I should have never given such power to the thoughtless words of that man.  The unkind words and acts of another do not deserve the authority to govern my self-worth.  Self-worth should always remain an inside job.

Unkindness does not define me.  Unkindness does not define you.

People say and do things that are strikingly hurtful.  They lash out and lose control and make mistakes.  Sometimes hurting you is intentional, and sometimes they don’t even know that they are doing it.  Your hurt becomes invisible collateral damage.  Most can’t see, but you can’t avoid.  It gnaws at us and steals our happiness.  But their unkindness is about them – not you.

I now see the paper tiger in his untruth.  I forgive a kind man who mistakenly whispered callous words with zero understanding of their impact.  I release that ghost of my past.  I take back all power I once gave it, and I bring yet another part of my soul back out of the shadows.

We have sacrificed pieces of ourselves to others who never deserved them.  No one should ever be given the power to make you feel substandard or less than.  You are never less than.  You are meant to excel and grow and dream and learn and soar.  Let go of another’s false perceptions, and discover who you really are.

Release the unkindness.  Take back your self-worth.

You were born to shine!

In love and light always – Joanna

***This is one of my favorite posts from an awesome lady and fellow outcast / badass who also had to brush off hollow unkindness thrown her direction.  High five from me to you girl!  😉
Too Good for Wal-Mart

Substandard

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