“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone. They let you down and hurt your pride. Better put it all behind you; life goes on. You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside”
Don Henley — The Heart of the Matter
“You have got to release that anger,” a friend said to me after months of watching me flare up at the mere mention of a former friend’s name. “It hurts no one but yourself.”
In theory, she was right. My daily tirades about “that fucking, selfish, mean-tempered, hateful bitch (and those were the nice things I had to say), did nothing to ease the anger that was consuming my heart and soul — eating away at precious present moments while I spewed hatred about a past I could do nothing about.
I could go on and on for hours about the laundry list of wrongs she’d done to me. Wrongs that went beyond petty differences. Wrongs she attempted to cover with crocodile tears and casual condolences.
I learned early on that “Forgive and forget” is the formula for moving forward with any relationship we are seeking to salvage. So why was I having such a hard time doing that in this situation?
In my mind I kept thinking of a pissed off Jesus entering the Temple and seeing the money changers and merchants who were selling animals for sacrifice. Instead of kindly asking them to leave, he overturned their tables and drove them out.
I don’t know about you, but a pissed off prophet who is able to display human emotions is one whose lead I’m more than willing to follow. You think Jesus forgot what he saw in the Temple that day? He was the rock star of forgiveness, but forget? I think not.
“Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back.
It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important.
Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”
Desmond Tutu — No Future Without Forgiveness.
And then a light came on in my heart.
While I truly wanted to forgive, I didn’t want to forget. I didn’t want to “hit back,” but I certainly didn’t want to continue being bitch slapped. Furthermore, I had no intention or desire to salvage this particular relationship. Because I’d forgotten what she’d done too many times but she never failed to use my forgiveness against me.
A year ago, I wrote an article titled “Rat Poison and the High Road.” That article began with the following quote:
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
And while that continues to be true for me, 12 months of forgiving later, I have reached the conclusion that forgetting will always set me up for repeating the same mistake.
People may change and one day I may reconsider my decision to reconcile with my former friend. But I can never truly forget. The best I can hope for is to think of her with peace in my heart and surrender the rest to a past that no longer serves my present or my future.
“Have you forgotten what she did to you?” I asked the same friend whose counseling to release my anger inspired this article.
“Do we ever truly forget?” she responded.
Perhaps it’s best if we don’t.