Can I Forgive – And What About Forgetting?

Okay, after being sick for two weeks, I am coming back to life. I had to do a little studying last week while trying to get going, and I came up with some ideas I think may be interesting (and maybe not).

For starters, I got my first spiritual insight reading the New Testament long before I ever met a Mormon. I’m saying that just to say that it’s something that people have come up with this independently. In Matthew’s chapter six, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. His demonstration includes the words, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12). After he had finished that, he says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:14-15).

Later I have learned some things about the subject of forgiveness – the one I have felt that God has bestowed upon me, and the one that I have struggled to do the same for some other people. It has been a humbling experience. Don’t get me wrong – I am not by any standard easily offended. Mostly things run down my back like water on a duck’s feathers. But there are a couple of people who have managed to do things that have hurt me or my family – whether or not they meant it is a minor part of the equation – so that I have a hard time not having hard feelings.

I have no illusions about me or any other human becoming perfect in mortality, but let’s face it, it’s one thing to intellectually know something, and to experience it for real (not that this is my only failure by a long shot!) is something else. As I said, it is humbling. That has got me thinking about our expectations in general. There is no equivocation about the standard, which is to repent – forsaking the sin – but the reality is that each one of us is far below the standard. We only hope that we are making some progress.

But the thing that really gets me is this: In Gethsemane and during the hours of torture and finally death that followed, Jesus went through something that I can not possibly imagine (he experienced the consequence of sin – see D&C 19:18-19 and 76:48) so that I have the luxury of learning by making mistakes. That realization makes me almost stop breathing or something. So I can not forgive some insignificant thing I have experienced (if you look hard enough you’ll always see how you brought it on yourself)? This has brought me to a new way of reading Moroni 7:45-48. Praying with “all the energy of heart” that I could have Charity and in a small way love like Christ loves us is not an optional thing, it is probably the very essence of the message of the Scriptures. Sure, Mosaic law was brutal by our standards – and extremely lenient by the standards of the world they lived in – but it was given to teach people gradually how to be more merciful and charitable. And what does Isaiah say about widows and orphans – or cheating your neighbor out of property, for that matter (not explicitly aimed at mr. Madoff, but he may as well be mentioned, since one day people could be calling Ponzi schemes Madoff schemes)? It is about treating our fellow humans more fairly – the blood of the oxen could do nothing if people didn’t get that part.

What about forgetting, then? “Forgive and forget” is not from the Bible, but the Lord has promised to forgive our sins and “remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). I have thought long and hard about this, and I have come to a conclusion of my own. There are two different kinds of  “forgive and forget”. They are:

  • Honestly just letting things ride. This is pretty hard, although it is easy enough to say. Part of this is realizing that most of the time the perceived offenses were not meant as such, and most of the rest were only meant as such in the heat of the moment.
  • Forgiving inasmuch as it means to seek no vengeance or bear no grudge – but if someone has repeatedly hurt you, don’t you have the right to do something to stop the abuse? I think definitely yes!

The latter has more to do with trust. That is something that a person must earn. It is gained or lost by experience. I know that by having been on both sides. I have not always been trustworthy – and let’s face it, how much can we count on human beings? – and it is one of the best experiences to see the trust starting to form again in a loved one, whose trust you have lost. Years ago I heard someone say “It is greater to be trusted than loved”. I know the culture is such that it sounds more hip to be loved (with the glamorization of romance in Hollywood), but the Lord loves all of his children. How many of us can he trust? At least a little?

So I am deep in the woods with this or I have learned a little something from this roller-coaster ride I call my life.

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Posted in Mormonism, Religion
4 comments on “Can I Forgive – And What About Forgetting?
  1. Catania says:

    I think that this is an interesting topic you bring up, and I, too, have been considering it.

    I think that there are a few different types of “forgetting.” And there are also ways that we learn from our experiences.

    1. I don’t think that it is prudent for us to “forget” every offense. Of course, we need to protect ourselves and our families. This is especially true if the offender is unwilling to repent. We are not commanded to merely forgive those who repent. We are commanded to forgive all. So – there may be times when we forgive, but we also learn from the situation. Trust is a good example – especially when the person who has betrayed our trust doesn’t want to repent. We shouldn’t hate that person or judge him/her, but we should do what we must to protect ourselves.
    A scriptural example is – Nephi – when Laman and Lemuel were so angry with him, the Lord finally directed Nephi to get out of the land and into a new part of the promised land – to preserve himself and the rest of his family. Nephi still needed to have charity and love for his brothers, but this didn’t mean that he needed to subject himself to harm.

    2. All of this being said, we DO need to forget. We need to make sure that we don’t continually re-open the wounds that have been left by others. This is a conscious decision we must make.
    For example – more than 20 years ago my father cheated on my mom. This action resulted in divorce. I don’t, in any way, condone what my father did, but it happened. Anyways. They got divorced, and after that time, my father always did everything he could to be the best father to us. This included moving our whole family (and paying for the remodling of my mom’s house – even though she was remarried by then) so that we could be closer. She had four children and never had to worry about working. He took care of his duties as a father – even if he had neglected his duties as a husband. Both my mom and dad are remarried, and have been for years.
    Recently, I was married, and then found that my ex-spouse was living a “double life”. When this happened, i think that my mom was trying to relate to me because she continued to recount details of my father’s affair. I hated hearing about it. I also noticed that the more she thought about it – the more she remembered these details- that had been buried by 20 years of time, and hopefully 20 years of good memories with her new husband- these details caused new feelings of anger for my dad to surface. It was really frustrating for me to see.
    I have since remarried, and even still my mom talks about the time she found out my dad was having an affair. I know that it is difficult to forget, but i also know that WE NEED TO FORGET. It is not fair to my step-dad or her children that she goes on remembering. Ultimately, it is not fair for her because she has chosen to re-open scars that healed over years ago.

    Sorry for the personal details and information. I guess what I’m just trying to say is that it’s a fine balance. I also feel like we will know, if we seek the Spirit, what is important to remember and what is important to forget. We know that there are some things that we’re “remembering” that may interfere with true forgiveness. I suspect that when we go to the Lord, He will help us to know what is important to learn and what we should be willing to let go. I also suspect that there is no single formula – it always takes sincere and personal counsel with God.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. velska says:

    You are, I think, right on with what you’re saying. We only hurt ourselves, when we harbor resentment and anger about something that has happened – especially when, in the situation you describe, your life has basically moved on; you have a new spouse, who must constantly hear you berate his predecessor.

    From a therapeutic point of view, acknowledging and confronting your own anger is important, but just as important is to let go of the anger – do something that helps release aggression without hurting others – and then moving on. That bottled-up anger may be just the one thing that keeps you remembering, and the memory makes the anger boil even more bitterly.

    Talking about our feelings with the ones closest to us is sometimes hard, especially for us guys, who don’t like to feel vulnerable. It is, however, very important. And so is listening – or perhaps listening is even more important.

  3. Ray says:

    velska, this is a wonderful post. If you don’t mind, I will be linking to it in the future on my own blog.

  4. velska says:

    Well, if you must… 😉

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