Forgive and forget. I never liked that expression. Well… I won’t say I didn’t like it. The statement never made sense to me. How do you forget something or someone as if it never happened or you never met them? You don’t.
I’m not saying that forgiving is bad because it’s a source of freedom. It’s an opportunity to take back the power I gave to a person or situation. It allows me to forgive myself and learn that I can survive this situation and come out a wiser person from it.
But let me talk about the other side of forgiveness: the situation or person. I’ve come to realize that you can forgive a person and never speak to them again as part of forgiving yourself. “Forgetting” what they did sets me up to have it happen again. Someone called it denial or rejection. At first, I took issue with that, but after thinking about it, I’d have to say that person was right: I reject the possibility of allowing myself to be hurt, devalued or ignored by this person again.
I had to think hard on this because my current forgiveness work includes my father and stepfather, both of whom I have not talked to in months. I love them in my own way. I am, however, working through some deep issues I have with them and in this stage of my life, forgiving them means not talking to them and subjecting myself to the same behaviors that made me feel negatively about myself. And no matter how much I express that something bothers me or hurt, it’s brushed over as ‘the past’ and I need to ‘get over it’. Can you see how thinking that two and two will equal five makes me the crazy one? That’s self-abuse and I’m straight.
A lot of people don’t understand that though. They tell me the same things my father and stepfather say: ‘let it go’ and create a new relationship. I struggled with that advice for two years. Each time I tried to start a new relationship, we would slip back into our old patterns and the cycle started all over again: them not hearing my issue, me resenting them for it and resenting myself for trying AGAIN. It wasn’t until this year that I made the executive decision to stop listening to unsolicited advice. Especially from people who don’t know why I made the choice.
I had to forgive me for thinking that I asked for what happened or I was the cause. I had to forgive and be gentle with myself as I sorted through my shame, anger and grief. I’m still doing so and in this fragile state, I don’t choose to expose myself to being treated the same way. I don’t deserve to be ignored nor have my feelings dismissed. I learned to love myself enough to just say no. And in forgiving myself, I forgive them for their actions or lack thereof. I just choose not to expose myself to having the same thing happen time after time after time after time… you get the point.
Will I always feel this way? I don’t know. It’s possible that I will reach a place where their behaviors mean absolutely nothing to me. I’m not there right now though and am truly okay with that. Until that day comes though, I am happy with my decision to choose me.