Most of us know, or at least have heard of, someone who has mastered the art of peaceful detachment from their thoughts and feelings. This person has fortified their body, mind, soul, and spirit against life’s cruelties and developed an immunity to being hurt by another. On the rare occasions when hurt has found a way into their Zen-like existence, this person is able to forgive the transgressor, let go of the hurt, and embrace the lesson that this experience has brought to them. I am not that person.
Being hurt is a messy part of life, and we all have the capacity to hurt and to be hurt. When in either position, we have choices to make. When we recognize that we have caused harm to someone else, including ourselves, we can choose whether or not to sincerely apologize, learn from our mistake, and make better decisions that are not hurtful. When we find ourselves on the receiving end of pain, we can choose whether or not to accept an apology, if one is offered, or extend forgiveness when one is not, let go of the hurt, and either salvage or end the relationship.
This all sounds so simple and straightforward, but when filtered through my mind and heart, in some cases, it becomes twisted and convoluted to the point that I wonder if it truly is possible to forgive, forget, or both. If we are able to forgive, or are ourselves forgiven, how do we temper the painful memories, rebuild trust, and allow ourselves to love and be loved again? If it is possible to forgive, yet not forget, is this true forgiveness, for how do memories not influence our present and future interactions? Is it merely a case of time heals all wounds, and memories fade?
The other aspect to forgiveness that raises more questions is about the relationship with the person you have hurt or been hurt by, and as with the other questions, I am not sure there any right answers. Depending on the relationship, we can choose to end the relationship or salvage it, and each of those choices has layers.
If we choose to sever ties with the person, we can walk away and never look back. We can end the relationship, only to return to it and find ourselves in the same hurtful situation again, until we reach our breaking point or resign ourselves to it. We can resume the relationship and discover that it can transcend the hurt to become something even better and stronger than before we left it. We can attempt to return, only to find that the person we left is no longer there. We can go our separate ways and either repeat the mistakes or practice healthier behaviors with someone else.
If we choose to remain in the relationship, we can work to rebuild broken trust and heal the hurt, individually and together, to strengthen the relationship. We can stew silently in our hurt and allow the emotional wounds to fester and infect the relationship to the point that we either end it or continue in it, merely going through the motions and keeping up the charade of a happy, healthy relationship. We can perpetuate the unhealthy pattern and the cycle of faux forgiving each other, knowing we have no intention of changing, and biding our time until we leave for greener pastures.
Sometimes, when I share the contents of my mind and heart, I find clarity or guidance, but this topic has led to even more unanswered questions. How do we know if someone is genuinely sorry? At what point, if any, do we stop giving someone repeated chances to do the “right” thing? Once broken, can trust ever be regained? Are there people that are unforgivable? Are these questions even relevant, because everything happens just as it is supposed to by some divine order?
As I continue to grapple with the concept of forgive and forget, I do know this. I will continue to do my best not to hurt or be hurt and to be vulnerable enough to love and be loved, and I will continue to fail on all counts along the way. I guess to err really is human and to forgive is truly divine.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story