Forgiving and Forgetting???


This blog is only my personal struggle with forgiving and forgetting, it does not at all mean I think everyone has to forgive what has been done to them.  It is a personal decision and I respect that…

Last night I had a conversation with a good friend.  I was trying to convince him he needed to forgive his parents as I had done and in order to do this he must forget.  He told me of horrible childhood traumas that made my arguments seem pathetic.  If you read my blog on BPD and Abuse you may know that I too was abused emotionally, physically, verbally… However the “martyr” in me has decided that she has forgiven and forgotten.  Mark, my friend said something to me that I was thinking of the whole day, “I have forgiven, but I cannot forget, because to me to forgive means to understand and if you forget how can you understand?”  Can you actually forgive wrongdoings without forgetting?  What does forgiveness mean?  Do we really forget?  I mean it’s not like we can erase human memory.

I came to a couple of conclusions.  First, forgiveness to me meant understanding my mother as a human, who had faults, who was suffering as I have and who did NOT INTENTIONALLY mean to harm me.  I tried to explain this to him and he agreed however we were stuck on the forgetting part.  I cannot ever forget half my life can I?  What I meant by forgetting is to let it go, set the person you are holding responsible free, break down the walls of anger that you have with them, they are destroying or have destroyed your relationship.  Forgiving is telling them you do not blame them any longer, forgetting is never talking of it again, letting go of the hostility and hurt over the offenses, because in reality who is it hurting but you?  The term I can forgive but never forget, is misleading, of course you can never not remember the acts that led you to a life of pain, but you can set them, the anger, the hurt, the pain, the reliving of the memories, the hostility, the “throwing it in their face” aside… The memories are the past, continuing to dwell on it can only control you, can only cause you the pain that you are feeling.

Mark understood his parents and their actions, but he talked of the abuse and I could hear the pain, even though it was through a computer, so no he has not set it free, and maybe neither have I, since I still do have pain.

So, then the question is not can we forgive and forget, it is can we forgive and stop reliving..  Everytime we hurt ourselves, put ourselves in harmful situations, drug ourselves, think of suicide, push people away, etc… we are reliving past hurts, escalating them, we are not “forgetting.”  So how does one “forget?”  I think that is a personal answer and I would like some feedback to how some people have done this.

I once went to a Shaman.  She could tell immediately when I walked in the door, I was a wounded person.  She handed me some kind of rock and told me to put it in a sock.  She then said when I was ready to think of all the wrongdoings that I have endured, say them into the sock and then break the rock a little each night until it was in bits.  Sound strange huh?  Well, I did it.  I broke that rock with a hammer every night in my backyard, but I still have some in tact.  The rock of course is a symbol of the hatred in my heart, the pain that I have not forgotten, so while I may understand why my mother did what she did, how she suffered, I too am holding onto that rock.  I have not declared my independence from the memories therefore I hold both me and my mother captive.  I hope to one day soon destroy that whole rock and set us both free and I hope the same for Mark and for all of you…

God is love, generosity, and forgiveness.  If we believe this, we will never allow our weaknesses to paralyze us… Paolo Coehllo

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7 Responses

  1. In the case of abuse on that scale, it may impossible to forget, depending on the person. All you can really do to try to “forget” is to understand that at that time in your past your (justified) rage was toward a personality disorder that a parent had, rather than the parent themselves. Obviously, this is not easy for anyone to do, but for some BPD sufferers, it may be impossible. With BPD, and with thought processes being in “black and white”, anyone who acts so badly toward the abusee, even if it technically was not their fault, is black, or evil, and will always be bad, even if though about rationally, it was not entirely their fault. Subconsciously, it is impossible for some people to forget, as the abuser will always be “evil” in their mind.

  2. Right, I agree, the anger is at the illness not the person. But, as you said for some it is impossible to forget… but what I mean by forgetting is not reliving it…

    • Yeah, I’m sure it just take a sort of strength to not relive the abuse. I have never been abused, so I don’t know how valuable my comments really are

  3. This meant a lot to me… Though there’s so much in it, I will probably read it several more times until I can wrap my head around it… Forgiving and forgetting is something that I want to do, but haven’t been able to yet. But I can see the benefits from it, and I want to have that freedom. Thank you for sharing your experiences and ideas about this VERY difficult concept. It is encouraging to know that forgiving and “letting go” IS possible, though it may take a while. I appreciate this so much.

  4. Well, the human mind can forget, at least in part, the pain that one suffered. If the mind is traumatized to the point of breaking. My mind did this. I don’t remember too much of my childhood. In fact I only remember fragments of my life until I was about 8 or 9. I thought this was normal, until I began to talk to my other friends. The few memories I do have of that time, are like broken pieces of a dream. And that dream is not good. Don’t get me wrong I have a few good memories. But mostly those stem from pictures and what people told me happened. And I assume I drew my own memory from that. I was raped at 3 years old. I can remember the before, the beginning and the after extremely well. I can not however remember the middle. The worse of it. I knew it went on for 5 yrs. I don’t remember the 2nd or the 100th time it happened. I don’t know if it happened 100 times. I don’t know if it happened 10 times. I have tried to be hypnotized and “regressed” to the point of remembering. I believed that I would not be able to move on, unless I remembered. I had a therapist when I was 17 that told me that I did not need to remember to go on with my life. That I had to let it go. That my body would not let me remember, and there was a reason for that. I should not fight it. I fought it. I dwelled on it for years, trying to grasp the memories and pull them from the abyss of my mind.

    I never remembered everything. But I can tell you that even if I don’t remember everything that their are triggers to my memories that brings them back. Take for example my “father” gave me a music box, Every time I opened it and heard it play, It would take me back. I would not remember an actual memory per say, but the emotions were so raw that I had a hard time escaping the pain. I would literally break down. Even now thinking about the music box, it is making it hard for me to think, the pain in my chest is deep and piercing like a knife is stabbing me.

    I never forgot. I did however let go. I do talk about it, when the situation arises that it is necessary. I do not hide my past from people. But I can talk about it (most of the time) with no pain or emotion. Because it is a part of me. But it is not all of me. I did forgive in part the people that raped me. (yes it was more than one) and there was more than molestation, rape, their was also mental abuse.

    To this day, I know that what happened to me as a child has shaped me, has damaged me. I know that my illness, in part,was caused by my mind trying to compensate for the horrible things that were done to me. I do not let those people that hurt me off the hook. They have to (or should have to) accept some responsibility for damaging another human being, for taking the conscious effort to know that they were doing wrong. No matter what the situation.

    In short, (although this response is very long), You cant forget, because even if you do, your body wont, your mind wont. There will always be a part of you that reacts differently to every situation because of your abuse. You can forgive, but sometimes the anger and the rage that comes from not forgiving them, carries you through the next day. (It did me for years, it was the only reason I am still here) But weather you forgive or forget, you have to learn to let go of the pain. let go of the abuse. Because if you don’t then you will never move on. You will never learn to grow.

    Its like tying a rope to a mountain and trying to move it. Let go of the rope, stop trying to put he mountain where it doesn’t belong, and accept the fact that it is there for a reason, you must learn to move around it, or climb it, because if you keep forcing it to be something its not, or go somewhere it doesn’t belong, then you will become defeated, and you wont learn how to overcome the mountain. You must overcome the mountain, despite its enormous size and power, but you cant move it, you cant ignore it, and most of all you cant let it define you.Accept it for what it is, and give it no more power than it deserves.

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