A Brother Asks: I know it's good to forgive and forget, at least, that's how the old saying goes, but isn't that setting yourself up for more of the same?
My Response: Yes, it's good to forgive and forget. Yes, you can set yourself up for more of the same if you're forgetting the wrong things.
I used to do exactly what the saying recommended, not knowing though what I should have been focusing upon when I did. I didn't know any better. And as you indicated through your question, these actions can open the door for more of the same.
As I learned from the results of my actions, I didn't confuse "forgiveness" with "forgetfulness" and "re-Trusting" any more. I learned that I can forgive offenses, but I would be foolish to forget offensive behaviors that go uncorrected and to re-trust untrustworthy individuals if they have yet to amend their ways.
But let's make it personal to you. Once someone has offended you, it is your responsibility to assure that an appropriate boundary is both Established and Maintained so that future offenses do not occur -- for your sake and for the sake of the other party, especially when that person is not going to correct his or her offensive behavior.
Why? Because it should be clear from their actions that other people will not do this for you and it is immature to believe that they will.
But let's break it down further. Forgiveness entails "clean up". It absolves the offending party of accountability for the past action, not any future transgressions. It should never include:
- Continuing to place Trust in the person who shows no signs of correcting offensive behavior
- Forgetting the Character of this person
- Setting yourself up for future Offenses
- Harboring the emotions caused by the situation.
When it comes to the other party, to continue to place trust in anyone who is untrustworthy is simply insane. This doesn't mean you cannot forgive the person for an offense. It simply means that forgiveness doesn't mean re-trusting someone who has proven to you that he or she shall not a) respect being entrusted and b) amend the offending behavior.
As far as the aspect of forgetting goes, this has less to do with the other party than it has to do with you. To forgive you must get past the situation and it's more about not harboring what is classically viewed to be "ill feelings" about the situation. In truth, they are not ill feelings. They are simply emotions that are trying to tell you something. Examples of those emotions are Resentment, Hurt, Pain, Hate, and Anger.
These Emotions tell you that:
- You have yet to resolve and put to rest issues you have with this person. (Resentment)
- You're still focusing upon the violation that occurred and not healing it. (Hurt)
- You're still stuck on what occurred. (Pain)
- You're still filled with you're own personal pain so much so that you invest your focus outwardly in such a way as to distract you from what needs to be focused upon within. (Hate)
- You still feel compelled to take action to protect yourself from them and/or to cause a change in the situation. (Anger)
Why they are viewed to be "ill" is because by harboring them, as in "Dwell on them without resolving them in an effective, functional and healthy way", you don't deal with what each one tells you that you need to do for yourself. This does not benefit you or those around you.
The action you must take for each is in what each tells you.
- Resentment - Resolve and put to rest the issues.
- Hurt - Heal the violation (Grieve!)
- Pain - Get unstuck.
- Hate - Stop focusing outwardly and deal with what needs to be going on internally.
- Anger - Protect what you must and change what you can.
Sure, there is much more to it than this and simply forgiving and forgetting is not as easy as it seems, but when you know what you need to remember, what you need to forget, what you need to forgive, and what actions you need to take into the future, things get better quicker and stay that way.
One important thing to note here: You might have to forgive yourself in all this too, especially if you're kicking yourself around inside for allowing yourself to be an active or even a passive participant in what occurred. The best way to get past it is to:
- Ask yourself what you did or didn't do that helped cause the situation.
- Own It!!!!!!!!!! (This is unbelievably helpful!!!!!)
- Assess what you need to do into the future to help prevent reoccurrences.
- Look also at what you need to do differently in other similar situations.
- Plot out your course so that you know what you should do when new opportunities occur.
- Give yourself a pat on the back for spotting the lesson to be learned.
- Heal the change (grieve) and celebrate (honor) the lesson.
Brother John S Nagy
PS - You can find out more about understanding the code locked up in emotions here: http://www.coach.net/EAME.htm