Forgive and Forget? Sometimes – but not always

forgiveHow often does someone give you the wise sage advice to Forgive and forget. It’s all about forgiving. Forgive and you’ll feel better, you’ll find peace, you’ll be enlightened and while at a higher level of consciousness that might be true. Sometimes forgiving just for the sake of feeling better isn’t really all that enlightened. Because if you haven’t really forgiven- it’s just another lie to appease someone who quite frankly doesn’t deserve to be appeased. And more importantly it’s a lie told to you.

It never ceases to amaze me how often the one who you “should” be forgiving is at the front of the line shouting for you to get over it, to move on. They may not be using the word forgiveness, but believe me- that’s what they are after. Of course they are- it helps them feel better about themselves and usually they need that forgiveness because they probably haven’t dealt with their own part and by you forgiving them, it just gives them a reason not to. Because if they have to shout at you to forgive them, then they probably haven’t taken the steps necessary to earn that forgiveness.

The other day my daughter came home very upset about something someone had said to her. I went in to how she should ignore it, forget about it, understand the other persons pain…blah…blah…blah… all the colloquialisms I could muster out of my How To Be Spiritual and Enlightened Hand Book and then she looked at me and said, “You know what mom, it really hurt my feelings, can’t I just be hurt for a minute?!” Wow- was she spot on. The truth is when people do things to hurt you, you feel it, physically, emotionally and to ignore it, stuff it away and pretend to be some shining light of spiritual forgiveness when all you really want to do is feel the hurt is actually hurting you more.

I had my own realization about this a few days later when I came face to face with two people who have hurt me, badly. I have received countless emails from them telling me how horrible I am, how I should just get over it and move on. Of course they want me to move on – they have never once taken any responsibility for their actions, they have never uttered one word to even indicate that their actions caused me much pain, let alone show any compassion, they simply expect me to be the enlightened one and forgive them so they can carry on hurting me. Um- I can move on- but I will not forgive you. You won’t get off the hook this time.

Now, I know that it takes two (or sometimes 3 in this case to tango) and I have offered an apology for my part – at least to the one party I actually could have caused hurt to- the other is simply a bully – sort of like the shorter girl standing behind the bigger girl at school saying yeah to everything the bigger bully says.

I have offered my apology in person; in writing and every way I can only to receive nothing in return. And there in lies the rub in terms of this forgiveness thing.  Because with each apology I gave and with each slap in the face back I received- forgiving became harder and harder. Because I realized I couldn’t forgive in this case until the other party does their part.

I know that at some point it’s about my own peace – but right now my peace is being true to how I feel, my own peace is learning to stand up for myself and to say “You know what, what you did is not ok and guess what you can’t do that to me anymore” You can call me bitter, but it’s not bitterness that you see, it’s a refusal the accept to continue to be treated a certain way. There are some people in our lives we just can’t get rid of – for a multitude of reasons they will be inextricably connected to us- sometimes they just need re-training.

When I came face to face to the ones who caused such hurt, I called them out…it wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t the epitome of grace, I was exactly as I felt – hurt and betrayed and angry and you know what I’m ok with that. I am done pretending to be what I am not.  And I spoke the truth, and often the truth isn’t pretty or graceful.

The trick here is that I don’t carry the hurt and anger around with me all day and let it fester. I aim it where it needs to be aimed and when the opportunity arises, like when I came face to face with them, I let them know I wasn’t going to let them off the hook. I did something that surprised even them. Instead of pretending, Instead of taking the “high road” I took the real road. I let it out and I felt much better after.

The barrage of hate filled emails soon followed and I felt no need to engage, except to correct some facts. I was able to simply ignore their demands for me to forgive them, to move on, I was able to ignore their insults and attacks because I had allowed myself to feel the hurt- to let them see my hurt. And clearly it caused them to feel guilt. So instead of seeing themselves- they decided to attack me – oh well. They tried for days to goad me- to no avail. The truth hurts especially for the people who are doing the hurting.

It could have been an opportunity for them to make a different choice. To ask for the forgiveness they so desperately want in a way that they might actually receive it.  I don’t need to forgive. I am happily living my life and except when I am forced to deal with them, it’s great- and that’s real right now – perhaps it will change. I’m no longer worried about when and if I’ll forgive, I am going to protect myself, stand up for myself and be real and sorry if they don’t like it. I’m sorry if it isn’t enlightened – it’s real, it’s honest and I have no need to appease anyone for their sake.

So I told my daughter that she should feel the way she feels, allow her experience to be had and to forgive only if she feels it’s right with in her. Forgiveness is on her terms and no one else’s, forgiving is for her, and it doesn’t mean she has to forget.