“Forgive and forget” is one of the most widely used platitudes. It is simple advice taught to children but rarely followed by adults. Adults always find a way to avoid or explain away the need for one or both parts. We avoid forgiveness in order to maintain our sense of righteous indignation. We avoid forgetting in order to stay safe from future slights or assaults. Or so we think…
I spoke to my cousin after a very long estrangement. My parents had ended their relationship with her many years before and were against my reunion. Then, a huge tragedy rocked my family and she wanted to be included. My father finally gave in and spoke to her only to realize that everything he thought he knew about her was wrong. His memory of her and his feelings was frozen in time. He had spent 20 years telling himself a story that wasn’t true anymore. She had gone on with her life but he still held this outdated opinion about her. What’s worse, the relationship was damaged and beyond repair. In that short interaction, I understood why forgiveness is so important.
Withholding forgiveness keeps you frozen in time.
A grudge happens when a value that a person holds dear is violated. Releasing a grudge requires that you explain to the person who harmed you how you felt harmed. It is not the apology you receive but the expression of your feelings that is curative. The truth is, many times you will not get an apology. You may get an excuse, a platitude or even have the tables turned on you. Whether in person or in a letter you must speak your truth and find the place where you hold the grudge energy in order to free yourself from its power.
“Forgiveness allows you to see the other with new eyes.”
(L. Sneedes 1984)
Forgiveness is the bridge that leads you across the muck and into the future. Without it, you will move forward, but under your own projections. People who withhold forgiveness are often isolated and lonely. They exclude themselves from opportunities to experience trust because they lack the relationships in which they could do so. Close relationships mitigate the damage of stressful situations, so they end up experiencing more stress than people who have healthy support networks. They are weakened by the isolation that withholding forgivingness offers. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.