We have all heard the expression to forgive and forget. But what does that truly mean? Does it mean that we let go of what someone did and forget that it ever happened? Or does it mean that we absolve them of their behavior towards us and forget that they committed that behavior? It is hard for most people to understand that when someone does something ‘bad’ it doesn’t mean that they are ‘bad’. It simply means that at that moment they were acting ‘badly’. We are all capable of displaying endearing or aberrant behaviors depending upon the stresses oflife and our ability to instantaneously switch from a ‘reactive’ mode to a ‘proactive’ mode. In reaction we recognize and believe in our separation from one another. In proactive mode we recognize and believe in our Oneness with one another.
In the reactive mode it is difficult to ‘separate’ the behavior from the person, while in the proactive mode we can separate the behavior from the person because we understand, from our acceptance of Oneness, that the other person is reacting to the stresses of their lives that we haven’t experienced. In other words, we haven’t walked a mile in their shoes and we give them the benefit of the doubt. Alexander Pope once said, "To err is human, to forgive, divine." What is it to forgive another? It is to absolve another of their behavior toward you by ceasing to resent them for committing that behavior. It means that you give up any feelings of being hurt by them for their behavior in order to sustain your ‘own’ peace.
What is it to forget? It is to cease to remember or take note of another’s behavior because you understand that they are NOT that behavior; they simply expressed that behavior before. It doesn’t mean that you forget that behavior; it means that you ‘forget’ that the person committed that behavior intentionally to hurt you (unless of course they did commit that behavior to intentionally hurt you). To forgive and forget means that you ‘separate’ the behavior from the person in order to understand their plight or reactions. It is putting you in their shoes in order to understand their journey. It means that you free yourself from the reactive feelings of being harmed or slighted. Lewis B. Smedes once said, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." When we don’t ‘forgive’ and ‘forget’ we are holding ourselves back from moving ahead unfettered by feelings of frustration and guilt. We are, in effect, stifling our progress because we cannot let go of the behaviors we don’t like or abhor.
Emotional reaction has a way of getting a grip on our beings that seems like it won’t ever let go. We rehash and repeat these self-defeating feelings and end up in an ‘endless loop’ of recycled reactions. Jump off the hamster wheel of self-sabotage and free yourself of reactive conclusions. Step into the light of proaction by forgiving others (and yourself) for aberrant behaviors and forgetting that the person committed that behavior if, and only if, they recognize theirerror. If they haven’t recognized that they have committed aberrant behaviors toward you forgive them but don’t forget what they have done; you haven’t any obligation to anyone to be their doormat.
However, if someone persists in aberrant behaviors towards you remove yourself from their sphere of influence. It is not necessary for you to remain around those who consistently exist in a pattern of unchecked and undisciplined behaviors that cause you to remember those behaviors. The very thing that irritates you about those behaviors will keep cropping up until you deal with them by removing yourself from your exposure to them. You are not obligated to keep re-learning the same lessons over and over again. If you are, you haven’t completely removed yourself from the influence of those behaviors over you. You are in a state of recycling those behaviors because you have focused your attention on those behaviors and your reactions to them; they have become a part of your comfort zone and you derive purpose and meaning from them.
Your Divine purpose and meaning in life is revealed and understood when you forgive others (and yourself) for aberrant past behaviors and reframe them as lessons learned. Just because you or others exhibited aberrance in the past doesn’t mean that you or others will continue to exhibit them in the future. Forgiveness loosens the bonds of guilt over those behaviors and forgetting the commission of those behaviors frees you from ‘separating’ yourself from others. It brings you together with others in the sense that you recognize that we are all connected through the Spirit of God and we have all, at one time or another, fallen short of being the perfect beings we were created to be.
When we decide to forgive and forget we are acknowledging that connection and we are proactively moving forward off of the hamster wheel of reactive recycling of guilt and aberrance. We are becoming free from the self-imposed binding of restrictive and erroneous beliefs that hold us back from manifesting our Divine purpose in Divine order. It is up to us to ‘be’ whom and what we were created to be. Until we align ourselves with that purpose in Divine order we will continue on the wheel of regret and withholding. It all starts with being able to ‘forgive and forget’ what we don’t want in our lives. Life is a process of holding onto what you want and letting go of what you don’t want. Free yourself from the chains of reaction and proact your way to freedom. ~Dean A. Banks, D.D. (Spirituality Guidance Channel)