On reflecting on today’s gospel from St Matthew, I have been reflecting on the theme of FORGIVENESS (Jesus tells us to “forgive seventy -seven times). From my experience, FORGIVENESS and FORGETTING go together. A recent study in-psychological science suggests that forgiveness does indeed facilitate forgetting. Forgiveness does indeed lead to forgetting the upsetting memories or the transgressions, particularly over time. Although not initially, sometimes it can take years, and some people never forget. One possible explanation is that forgiveness with time results in less rumination over the negative aspects of the hurt/transgression and facilitates forgetting.
I believe that the degree in which we have been hurt by another person can depend on the relationship and the trust we have in them. The consequences etc. of transgression effects how we forgive and forget.
Several years ago, when a person whom I trusted wronged me, it took me a few years to stop being angry and harbouring resentment towards that person who had wronged me. It was only through the grace of God and in prayer that Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what do” helped me to reach forgiveness and hopefully that the transgressor didn’t realise how much they had hurt me through their lies.
Forgetting, in this instance, was much harder for me. Forgetting means having to repress what happened and move on for the sake of the relationship. Trying to forget the hurt and to start afresh again, even though secretly I wanted ill for this person.
By developing a forgiving heart, we can become more aware of our own frailties and our need for God’s mercy. If we can offer forgiveness wholeheartedly to others, we find it easier to ask forgiveness when we are the one in the wrong. Forgiveness in itself is very healing, and we let love overwhelm the pain and anger so we no longer carry the burden of the hurt. Refusing to forgive can result in torture for ourselves. Such torment may be largely of our making rather than that of our transgressors.
As to FORGETTING a transgression towards oneself is very difficult- if a similar event occurs in our life again, all our repressed feelings of anger, betrayal and hurt come out, making us experience an emotional turmoil.
FORGIVING is the process of healing.
FORGETTING is a process of repressing our emotions.
Thought for today “Do I want to be a survivor or a victim of a transgression towards myself”. Survivors FORGIVE and try to FORGET.
Elizabeth Buchel has worked as an educator and psychologist for many years. She is formed in Passionist and Benedictine Spirituality. Elizabeth is a Passionist Companion and has been a active parishioner of St Brigids Marrickville since 1985.