Friday, March 4, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Forget After Forgiving

Oprah.com sent out a recent newsletter with the topic of 8 Ways to Forgive and Forget written by Karen Salmansohn.  In the title of the post, Ms Salmansohn tells you to forgive and forget.  Forgetting isn't mentioned again in her post except in the beginning sentences:

"Letting go of anger and bitterness can work wonders for both your attitude and your health, not to mention your relationships.  Karen Salmansohn offers you eight ways to start forgiving and forgetting."

Forgetting minor incidences happens every day for most of you.  Almost without thinking about it, you forgive and then forget about so many small things that happen in your day.  What about the big stuff? 

Should you forget after forgiving someone for raping you?  Should you forget after forgiving someone who always crosses your boundaries?  Should you forget after forgiving someone who molested you for years when you were a small child?  Should you forget after forgiving someone who is still actively drinking and abusing others while they are drunk?  Should you forget just because someone apologized and said they wouldn't do it again?

No you shouldn't forget any of these abuses.  You can forgive the person but don't forget their actions if they are dangerous or still abusive to you or to others.  If you forget about child abuse, how can you stop it from happening again?  If you forget that a person is a pedophile, how can you make sure that they don't hurt other children?  If you forget about child abuse in the process of fogiveness, you can't stop it from happening again.  If you forget what was done to you as a child, how can you possibly not pass it along to your children? 

With forgetting comes loss of awareness.  Without awareness, nothing changes.  Some things need to be changed.  Some things must be changed in order for you to stop child abuse from being forwarded to the next generation of children.  It is your responsibility to do what is needed to make people aware of child abuse. 

Child abuse is never okay.  Forgetting clears the way for child abuse to continue and to claim new victims.  The same is true for domestic violence.  Don't forget either.  Victims die when you forget.  Be aware, don't forget.  You can forgive without forgetting.  Change happens one person at a time.
Patricia

28 comments:

Sisi Yemmie ™ said...

lovely post. I find it hard forgetting even though i have forgiven

Patricia Singleton said...

Sisi Yemmie, thank you for your comment. I hope that you can one day let go of the pain but never forget "what" was done to you or who did it because that can put you or someone else in danger of the same abuse happening again. We can't continue to live in denial as many are currently wanting to do. Denial is never healthy.

welsh said...

Great post! I agree...no, don't forget...but move the events to a more appropriate place in your memory, so they will be there if you need them, but not cause you any more harm.

Patricia Singleton said...

Welsh, Thank you. I agree with you. Exactly. Letting go of the pain and anger so that it doesn't continue to affect you physically and emotionally goes along with the forgiveness process.

Forgive just don't forget the act of abuse so that you recognise when it is happening to someone else. Forgiveness is letting go of all of your pain so it doesn't "eat you alive." Forgiveness is taking back your personal power and setting boundaries that keep you safe from your abusers. If you forget, you can open yourself up to being abused again.

castorgirl said...

I think Nelson Mandela said it well with we should forgive, but not forget. I know it's a different context, but it is still about the process of learning from the past. As you say, it is about awareness.

Take care,
CG

Patricia Singleton said...

Castor Girl, I didn't know that Nelson Mandela said that. Thank you for sharing that statement. Without awareness, nothing changes.

Corinne Edwards said...

This is one of your most important posts, Patricia.

The religion I was brought up in said that we have to forgive and then invite the perpetrator home to dinner.

We cannot continue a relationship with anyone who can hurt us or those we love.

They have to be let go. Perhaps, if you can, never see them or speak to them again.

We can forgive - see them for who they are - and never ever let them hurt us again.

Or share our life.

Patricia Singleton said...

Corinne, the religions of my grandmothers taught me the same thing that yours did you. I tried to believe this for many years. I don't any more. I just don't buy it.

Forgiving someone doesn't mean that I have to continue to put myself in danger's way. Some abusers learn from their mistakes, stop abusing and make amends to those that they have hurt. Others, like my dad, never reach that stage. It was never safe to let my dad back into my life and I absolutely refused to endanger my children by letting him come around. If I had let him into our lives, I would have been like my mother and ignored what was so obvious - he was a sexual abuser and a raging alcoholic.

Ivory said...

There is so much debate on what forgiveness really is and while I will never forget, forgiveness for me, is giving myself permission to grieve for the child I was, to be angry that my childhood path was so deterred, and then to allow the burden of carrying the guilt to fall on the pepetraters shoulders, not mine.

Patricia Singleton said...

Ivory, that is the best description of forgiveness that I have ever heard. You describe my process of forgiving perfectly. Thank you.

love psychic  said...

A great post! I believe we shouldn't ever forget such things, just think of the trauma this causes, especially to young children who have no idea how to cope yet. But we shouldn't always keep them on our mind either, we should live in our past and learn to move on.

LadyJtalks said...

I believe that it is said that forgiveness is accepting that it will never be different then it was. There is no way I could forget and I've tried, it's part of that long term memory and the only way it doesn't bother me is to not be near those people again.

good words here, understood

Patricia Singleton said...

Lady J, thanks for visiting and leaving your comment. I like your words about "forgiving is accepting that it will never be different than it was." Thanks for sharing them. Some of us do carry around the fairy tale wish that things will suddenly be different and we will be loved and happy. Letting go of that is part of the grieving that I went through.

John P.K said...

Yes, you can forgive without forgetting. Actions will have reactions. Good actions will have good reactions, similarly for the bad actions there will be appropriate reactions. It is to be faced by the doer. We need not hate the person,We are ready to forgive him 'seventy times seven' but hate their bad actions and give appropriate reactions so that he will think twice before committing an action.Consequences to their actions are to be faced by the doer. he can not escape from the consequences, it will follow him.

Patricia Singleton said...

John P. K., I agree with you. Very well said. Thank you. I do believe in karma following a person for good actions and bad actions.

Patricia Singleton said...

Love Psychic, some how I overlooked your comment. I am sorry it took me so long to post it here. Most of us who are abuse survivors would love to have something else on our minds. The effects of abuse are not easy to do away with. It can take years to heal. Some never heal. Thanks for your comment.

Matthew | Loving Awareness said...

I've had "forgive and forget" used against me many times, mainly by the person who wants forgiveness. It definitely led to reproducing abuse, trying to be all positive and forgiving.

When asked about my mom, I recently said with a smile "oh, I hate my mom". This got a puzzled reaction. But the truth is that trust has been broken so many times I don't want to talk to her ever again. I still hope she finds her own peace and healing, but the hatred is a very natural, good, human emotion that says "never again - keep far away". I was taught forgiveness meant you shouldn't feel that, so if that's the case I will never forgive. But I suppose wishing her well means I've done some of that journey. The pain and distrust is still there, but I'm glad I'm owning it now, which is why there's a smile. There's nothing wrong with letting the natural emotions coming from abuse simply be there.

Patricia Singleton said...

Matthew, yes, intentionally and unintentionally, forgive and forget is often used to add more abuse to the survivor's path. Never putting ourselves in a position for the abuse to continue or to happen again is exactly why I say if you forgive, don't forget. Thanks for your view point.

katie said...

dear patricia~ thank you for visiting my blog the other day. it's nice to visit you and read your latest post. i am so glad you're out there writing your truth and being a light for others who may be in such darkness. i appreciate you.

absolutely i'm in agreement with you. i think telling people to forgive and forget can actually be harmful. many people i think, believe that forgiveness means overlooking harm, and allowing that person to remain in your life. sort of a no consequences, rising above sort of act. which i find to be very harmful and destructive. abusers go on abusing, and hurt people go on being hurt. i think that a healthy forgiveness might be based on being able to set boundaries and keep yourself safe, and once safe, to begin the process of internally healing the damage done, and finding a way to move beyond the harmful impact that person has on your life. even if that person is no longer in your life, those effects can continue on mercilessly. i think it's about moving on, and living your own life, outside of the shadow of those who harmed you. but not about forgetting. i think you said it well. wishing you well always!

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, thank you. I love your comment. It adds so much more to my post. Yes, I agree that setting healthy boundaries is a major part of doing forgiveness and keeping yourself safe from harm. Some abusers never stop abusing so allowing them into our lives just opens us up for more abuse. That is where boundaries comes in. Boundaries give us the ability to say no to further abuse from anyone.

I enjoy reading your blog. I got out of the habit when I got sick with pneumonia last November.

katie said...

thanks patricia! i always enjoy reading your blog too. you share such hope and truth. and what a great comment stream here on this post. i'm always grateful to hear how other people perceive forgiveness and have found healing and set boundaries. great wisdom here!

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, you are very welcome. Forgiveness is not an easy topic to deal for.

Jane Rowan said...

This is a very thoughtful, thought-provoking post and useful discussion. There is so much pressure to be Good Girls and Good Boys and forgive and be nice.

My feelings have shifted greatly as I've done the work of healing. In the case of my father, I can see that he did love me in many good ways, while also betraying my trust utterly--it is a complex mix. I don't even use the word "forgive" because it has one meaning "to absolve from blame." I have let go of the bitterness and hatred in my heart, but I never can absolve my father (or mother for her denial). And certainly I can't forget.

You might be interested in my memoir, The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse, which shows me wrestling with doubt, rage, and the question of forgiveness.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jane, I have your memoir on my Wish List right now. It does sound like a book that I want to read. I am getting ready to begin to write my own memoir about healing from incest. It has been quite a journey.

I do not go along with the definition of forgiveness "to absolve from blame." except I change the word "blame" to "responsibility" which gives forgiveness a slightly different slant away from blame which can keep me struck in the hurting. Maybe I need to do a post on the differences between blame and responsibility.

I have done a number of blog posts on forgiveness. If you will go to the this link it will give you the links for other posts on forgiveness:
Revisiting Forgiveness:
http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2009/06/revisiting-forgiveness.html

This link will give you the links for my posts called "Prelude To Forgiveness" and "What Does Forgiveness Mean To Me?". Let me know what you think.

Jane Rowan said...

Thank you, Patricia, for sharing your many deep and helpful insights on forgiveness. I did go back and read those posts and they resonated for me.

Absolutely, forgiveness (or letting go) helps the person who is doing it. I also found it vital to be with all the layers of feeling: grief, anger, hurt, confusion, as I describe in my memoir, The River of Forgetting. And seeing the perpetrator's woundedness is important.

I still don't use the word "forgiveness," largely because of the connotations other people put on it, but the process and content for me were similar to yours. I wrote about this in
http://janechild.blogspot.com/2006/05/forgiveness-for-abuse.html

Patricia Singleton said...

Jane, glad that my posts resonated with you. I am now on my way to read your post. Thanks for including it here in your comment. Have a glorious day.

mystorymypain said...

I love the post, can't imagine ever forgiving right now but completely agree with the fact that we should never forget even if it was possible to.

Patricia Singleton said...

MyStoryMyPain, you don't have to forgive unless/until you are ready to. I hope that you will read my other posts on forgiveness.

For me, forgiveness was a very lengthy process that I didn't think that I would ever do either. I have been where you are in thinking that I would never forgive. I just didn't want to and did not see it as a possibility. Forgiveness was not something that I ever planned on doing.

A gradual process of feeling and letting go of all of my pain finally allowed forgiveness to happen. I didn't even consider forgiveness as a possibility until an aunt called to let me know that my dad was in the hospital with a terminal brain tumor. He lived a year and a half after that surgery. When I reviewed my feelings about my dad, I didn't have the rage and hurt still in my mind or body.

I went to the hospital and saw him for the first time as the frightened, nasty, mean little boy that he had always been. He had no control, no power to hurt me ever again. That was when, privately in my mind, I told him that I forgave him. That doesn't mean that I invited him back into my life. He was still an abuser. He didn't change just because I had.