“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” ~Lewis B. Smedes
Many times I’ve heard the expression “forgive and forget.” When I was younger I thought I couldn’t do one without the other. The great theologian Lewis B. Smedes, quoted above, takes a different view. And I’m buying his take on it. I think he’s telling me that I don’t need to forget, but that my memories, once healed, can help to lead me to a better way of life. Memories of the sometimes painful past are part of who I am. I had an acquaintance in the mountains who once said that whenever she thought she had forgiven someone and was done with it, the bitter memory would crop up again and she had to start over. I think I understand what she meant but my “persistence of memory” (Sorry, Dalí.) comes at me in a different way.
As I move farther away from the time when D was having an affair (before and after I found out), I remember all kinds of betrayals that I hadn’t thought of before. Or in some cases I hadn’t thought of them in a while. So for me, it’s like having to forgive over and over because I keep thinking of more insults and lies and disrespectful behaviors. I’m hoping that one day I will be able to put all of it in one giant crate and be done with it. I don’t know whether it’s true or not but I’ve heard that our minds don’t dump all our negative memories on us at once because we would blow a circuit if that happened. I’m sure you can conjure up your own version of what “blowing a circuit” would mean. Certainly it would be more dire for some than others.
I do have great hope for the future. Does that mean that I am changing my difficult memories of the past as Smedes suggests? Learning a new way to remember? I think so. I hope so.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended in any way to analyze the art pictured above. Many great critics have tried that already. I haven’t the talent or desire to throw my hat into that ring.