To forgive, although it can be difficult, is not impossible. A person can forgive someone who has done something terrible to him.
But can he forget it?
The idea of forgive and forget sounds nice but is it doable? There are plenty of good-sounding sayings out there that don’t make sense. We shouldn’t be mesmerized by clever wordplay, and become oblivious of its less-than-clever content.
Are we taught to forgive and forget, or are we taught to forgive? Forgive and forget is obviously ideal, but many of us can recall countless examples of when forgetting is very difficult or just downright impossible.
For example, in the cases of trauma, a person can’t forget the terrible things that have been done to him. To expect the person to simply forget is to expect the person to do something he is unable to do, and that is unjust.
To give a more specific example, can we realistically expect rape survivors to forget the horrible wrong that has been done to them? Forgiveness is still a possibility, albeit a small one, but it is safe to say that forgetting is impossible in such a situation.
Another question comes to mind: if the person can’t forget, should he forgive?
Forgiveness, although it can be understandably difficult at times, is more for the person who was wronged, than for the person who wronged. Forgiveness enables a person to let go of the past and to allow room for healing.
The person would still remember the wrongdoing, but he wouldn’t allow the past to emotionally overwhelm him in the present anymore. By letting go, he is making a courageous decision to take control of his life again and not allowing the experience to dictate his future.
So, is the person responsible off the hook?
The mark of a civilized society is individual and collective responsibility. Being responsible means that we are accountable for what we do, and being accountable means that we will face the consequences of our actions i.e being rewarded for good and being punished for bad.
So if a person has done something wrong, we should reprimand the person to the best of our ability, using wisdom as our foundation. Part of that wisdom is to not take the law into our own hands. We are looking for justice, not vengeance.
Taking the laws into our own hands might open up doors for anarchy, where people will do whatever they want because they feel like it. Unlike vengeance, justice doesn’t follow our feelings. There are times when the just course of action is not the one that we want. But it is just, whether we like it or not.
Justice, without a standard of conduct, is vengeance. In order for justice to play its part, vengeance has to be removed. In order to remove vengeance (or at the very least, put it under control), we should learn to forgive.
Let it go. Move on. Heal.