“Easier said than done!” Or as my dad used to say. It’s only really as I have aged that I really understood the meaning behind his words. As a child and young adult, I always felt I had the capacity to forgive anyone, and would practice it fervently. What I hadn’t realised however, was how damaging this was to me. By telling people I forgave them, or not addressing an issue with someone with whom I felt had wronged me, I was slowly chipping away at my own self-esteem.
The upshot of all of this forgiveness, was that people I suppose then felt I was a push-over, and could keep treating me in the same way. I cannot blame them for coming to this conclusion, what I realise retrospectively is I no longer have to stand for it.
So how do we forgive and forget? Well, another quote from my dad, although said with slight jest was “I can forgive, but never forget”. Although there’s something quite ‘mafioso’ about this, it does hold a fair bit of weight for me. So, I’ll break it into two categories and attempt to apply some kind of formula
It depends on the situation. Clearly if someone doesn’t hold a door open because they simply haven’t seen me, and they apologise, they are almost instantly forgiven. If, however, I feel cheated on emotionally or physically then this changes everything.
It depends on the person. A family member not holding a door open for me, I almost expect and might be concerned if they were to. “Why is my brother suddenly being nice to me?” Likewise, if I feel cheated on by a family member, the wound cuts deep. Where things become a little murkier is when a relative stranger makes me feel cheated. The way I would approach this would be by asking myself the following:
- What are my rights? If someone owes me money for services (say work I have carried out) then I have a right to pursue this. Forgiveness does not even come into the equation.
- If I have no rights, do I really care? If it’s someone I’m not close to and let’s say they are bad mouthing me to someone else, is this worth my effort? And should they happen to apologise, does it matter?
Lastly, how does it make me feel? Yes, my feelings, just as everyone else’s, do matter. So, if my feelings have been hurt what should I do? Well it’s a bit of a closed loop this one. It comes back to, who is the person involved and what did they do. If it is someone close to me who seeks my forgiveness, I may wish to sit and discuss with them exactly how and why they have made me feel this way. If it’s a relative stranger, I would be inclined to be more factual and perhaps look to tout my rights to them.
This is tricky. Luckily for my friends and family I have a terrible memory, so I tend to forget most things by proxy. However, some things just cannot be forgotten. Does this mean we haven’t accepted their apology and forgiven them? Not necessarily. It may mean that I’m more cautious of a repeat of their actions. This can create tough scenarios if we are talking about cheating. If we have said that we forgive our partner for an indiscretion, then it should follow that we trust them not to repeat their actions. Not doing so might create a feeling of mis-trust which is a whole other blog.
The solution, I have found, is strong communication. If the latter example were to be the case, I would let my partner know exactly how I am feeling. I may even find myself apologising to them. “I’m sorry, but right now I am struggling to forget what happened before. Can we discuss this?” Clearly this can’t go on forever, at some stage we either need to move on, or move away. Not to appease anybody else, but for our own protection and state of mind.