“To err is human; to forgive divine.”
-Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
(No, Snoop Dogg did NOT coin this phrase.)
My mom has always been a big pusher of the “forgive and forget” policy. I don’t really agree with it. I mean, if I’m in a place where I can forgive, I will. And I am a very forgiving person. I guess where my issue lies is in the second half of it. Because I don’t forget. And I’ll tell you why.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
-George Santayana (1863-1952)
I guess I always figured that if I were to forget the offense that I had forgiven, that I was setting myself up for a repeat performance in the future. Instead, I try not to put myself in the same position that got me hurt in the first place. This is almost always easier to do with strangers and friends than with family. You know the whole “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family” thing. Or was that “you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose but you can’t pick your friend’s nose?” Whatever. The point is that, you sometimes find yourself forgiving people in your family merely due to some sort of familial obligation…or because you’re required to according to your religion. (Guilty! –raising my hand.) But that wound is still sore and tries to scab over and it takes some time to heal but eventually you’re ready to give that family member another chance. Or you choose to forgive them from afar…or ask God to do it for you because you just honestly cannot do it. And then decide to keep a safe distance where you haven’t cut ties but don’t go out of your way to initiate contact, either. You know, you’ll go to the family reunion and be cordial to everyone but not invite the offender to be a really active part of your life, like birthday parties for your kids or to ask their opinion before you make a life-changing decision.
Because with strangers, it’s not that big a deal. You can just blow them right off because, hell. It’s a stranger. You’ll never see them again anyway, so who cares what they think? And you can sort of do the same with a co-worker that isn’t your boss, because ultimately, as long as that co-worker doesn’t sign your time sheet at the end of the week, you can probably just get even by hiding his or her coffee mug and then pretend you haven’t seen it.
Friends are trickier. We try, if it’s a good friend, to discuss the issue with the person and hash it out. Probably the end result of that conversation will be a determining factor as to whether or not the friendship will continue. If it does, probably there will be apologies and forgiveness and if it’s a good friendship, a conscious effort to not repeat the offense that caused the initial hurt. But really no one forgets.