To Forgive and Not Forget
I have a confession to make and I’m hoping you will forgive me. It may come as no surprise, but I am a bit of an astrology junkie.
In my opinion, a good astrologer is one part mathematician and two parts poet. I recently found a new favorite astrologer-poet. His name is Austin Coppock. Until most recently, Austin did weekly columns on planetary alignments. This week, I went searching for his newest column. I am sad to say, it is not there. It must be difficult being an astrologer. There is always some new alignment, some wrinkle in the stars that must be explored. There are no days off for such people, or so I assumed. It seems that Austin will take them when he wants. I feel I must forgive Austin for not fueling my astrology habit. He never promised it. I took it for granted.
In one of his more recent posts, Austin notes that forgiveness requires that one remember the offense. To forgive, but not forget… This struck me because I’m often told to forgive AND forget. I wondered, what is the virtue in remembering an offense? To forget means that I do not remember what the mistake has taught me. Many an entreprenuer claim that mistakes are the best teachers. If that is true – and I believe it is – why should I give up such hard won knowledge?
I feel like I should be quick to forgive and slow to forget. I also feel the best person to forgive is invariably myself. I know my mistakes. With others, it’s harder to tell… Besides, why should I be so hard on me? Why do I demand an impossible perfection? I am an incredible creature of vast talent and wonderful insight, but I am far from perfect – like really far. Why can’t I simply be good? Isn’t good by definition good enough? In the end practice makes perfect, but to start, practice makes mistakes.
If I can forgive myself of my own antics, it makes it much easier to forgive others for their tresspass. Besides, a thorough examination of my faults will teach me exactly where I am wrong, and why. If I refuse to look, the error will be one of broad and eggregeous strokes, and the line between good and bad behavior begins to blur as my justifications swing wide. My heart turns rotten, and I lose the ability to forgive, and the possibility of being forgiven. I calcify.
With my own faults, it is vital I do not forget my mistakes, lest I repeat them. Remembering my mistakes makes it much easier to acknowledge that other people are also imperfect. If I pretend I have no faults, that I am always in the right, I will likely demand perfection of others, which is impossible and unreasonable. I certainly don’t want to be that guy. You know these people: they are the ones that glare at you for sipping wine out of a coffee mug or eating chili with a fork. These are the people that say you can’t be a good person if your not of their persuasion. If you’re not _______ (atheist, christian, white, muslim, trans, straight, female, hispanic, educated, catholic, young – put all your favorite labels here!), choke on a dick and die.
Forgive me for my French… and if you’re French, forgive me for denegrating your language. That is obviously not French, but bad English…
If there is a genuine offense, there needs to be a genuine repentence. This goes for others as well. I might forgive someone their tresspass, but that does not mean I must forget it. Sometimes, people are rotten and more than happy to take advantage. I can forgive them when the action is in the past, but I should not forget and put myself at risk of being abused yet again. They call this enabling, and it doesn’t do anyone any good.
On the other side of it, so much of what we might forgive was never an offense in the first place. Others have their own tastes, tendencies, diversions, idiosyncracies… and they are free to live them. In a world where independence and individuality are depressed, we often take offense where none is given. It is not my place to judge the actions of others unless they harm me or mine.
If I beg my own forgiveness, it makes it easy to humble myself before others. If I can beg forgiveness – and I am talking a genuine repentance – who are they to deny it? Besides, if I can beg forgiveness, my part is done. The acceptance of such a thing is not my part, but speaks to the character of the other party. If they wish to carry hard feelings, who am I to stop them? I put apology on the table. They can leave it if they like.
Usually that is not how it plays out. More often than not, I fret and worry. Finally, I work up the courage and beg forgiveness only to be told there is nothing to forgive. Did they forget? I doubt it. They were simply one step ahead of me. I am blessed with great aquaintances.
Brothers and sisters, I leave you with a hymn.
And I forgive you Noah and the Whale, for not calling yourself Jonah and the Whale… Seriously? Noah?