Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Forgive and Forget

Humans are hard wired for learning. Who knows why, but we've made it to this place in our development because we learn from our mistakes. As little children we touch something we aren't supposed to teach and some thundering voice from above tells us "No!" (And I'm talking about your caregiver's voice, not God's, but when you are less than two feet tall, there isn't much difference.) And we look at that object, not making a conscience choice to learn, but we memorize it, and we see it as a "No!"

"NO!" is the first word I ever wrote. I was four, and I had a felt tip marker and was starting toward my mother's ironing board with it. My older sister shouted "Eileen, NO!" and stormed away to get mom. So that is what I wrote on the ironing board cover. My mother didn't see the humor in it that I do know. That ironing board, the last time I saw it when I was about sixteen, still had the faded out "NO" written very clearly on the edge reminding me that this object was a big "NO!" Throughout my childhood, each time that thing was hauled out from the shadows; I felt varying degrees of guilt, frustration, and impudence in looking at it. What I never felt was forgiveness. I'm not saying that my mother never forgave me, although I can't say for certain that she did because we never talked about it. But the person who most needed to forgive me got taught the lesson of "No!" that day, but never got taught how to forgive herself. That, if you are as slow as she is, was me.

For all our abilities to learn from all sorts of mistakes, the biggest mistake we make in life is often one that we don't know how to recognize as such. The mistake of harboring anger, towards ourselves and others. Anger is a heavy ugly load to carry, particularly anger toward ourselves. And anger toward others, only inspires anger toward ourselves, because we are carrying around the weight of the mistakes of others with no lesson to learn from it other than "NO!" a lesson we all learned when we were under two feet tall. And so, we suffer.

How does one learn to forgive? I'll be honest and tell you I haven't figured it all out yet. But there is some wisdom in the old idiom "forgiving and forgetting." The idea was presented to me over fifteen years ago when I first read Life 101. When you break down these two words you get something very interesting, a concept that has helped me learn to embrace forgiving and forgetting. "For Giving" If you are "For Giving" well, that's a great thing, isn't it? In this case you want to be all for giving the weight of the problem up. Be for giving yourself credit for having made a mistake, and knowing that you won't make it again. Be for giving the person who hurt you the weight of the misdeed back, so that they too can learn from it. If you are carrying around for them, they will only learn that you are an emotional pack mule. "For getting" Usually when you hear the word forget it sounds like you are going to give up the lesson you learned, but that isn't what the word says, is it? It says you are "For Getting." But what are you for getting? I'm willing to believe that by being For Giving, you make room on your emotional plate "For Getting." Forgetting is making room for joy, for new experiences, for better than the injury you've been nursing.

I'm giving up some baggage I've been hauling short term and long term, because I'm all for getting some new beauty in my life. How about you?

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