To Forgive, But Forget?

29 Jul


I once had a boyfriend who told me all about his secret pain. The entire recitation lasted one whole rainy afternoon and it was very touching. At the end of it, he thanked me for hearing him out and told me he was there for me if ever I wished to tell him my problems.“That’s sweet,” I said, patting his hand.

He waited a beat. “So…?”

“So what?”

“You going to tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“Your problems!” he said. “You can tell me.”

“I don’t have any problems,” I said.

“Not now maybe, but you must have had some problems some time.”

“Uh…” I thought hard. I’d once gotten into trouble for setting fire to a bale of hay but I didn’t think that was the kind of “problem” he was looking for. Something… soul-shattering. That was what was needed. “Um, I was very ill when I was eight,” I offered when the silence became awkward.

“No, no, not illness. Stuff like what I just told you. Those kinds of problems.”

“Oh. No, I don’t have any problems of that kind.”

“Well, if you don’t want to tell me,” he huffed.

Arre, I’d tell you if I had any. Which I don’t. Sorry.”

He wouldn’t believe me and threatened to go into a prolonged sulk. I cudgeled my brain some more but I seriously could not think of one, honest-to-God tale of deep woe. Finally, I resorted to making stuff up. I don’t exactly remember the particulars of it (a pack of lies spun years ago? Get real!) but I do recall that I got quite involved in it. I ended up sobbing pathetically and he got to play comforting angel to my poor self.

I tell you, the acting profession doesn’t know what it missed when I decided not to take it up.

It’s years later and obviously, life hasn’t been all roses, whatever it might have been like at eighteen. But even with all the unexpected challenges its thrown up from time to time, I’ve had it pretty good.

Nine times out of ten, when things have gone wrong, I was directly at fault. The tenth was completely out of my control so that’s spilt milk. I’ve tried hard to learn from the other nine, so I can’t say I’ve got any complaints.

The only thing I still find hard to do is forget any injuries done to me. Forgiveness is not a problem – it generally takes me a while to forgive but eventually I can see the other person’s point of view and understand it even if I can’t go so far as to sympathize. That’s all very well. But forgetting the incident… I haven’t yet managed to forget a single thing that’s hurt me.

I don’t know if that qualifies as a real problem or not but there it is.

How does one forget? I was watching Lamhe again the other day and there’s a line in that movie: “Memories are memories, you can’t just toss them out of a window.”

Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing. But the point is, that’s so true. Even if you rid a particular memory of the emotion attached to it, whether negative or poignant (as in Viren’s case in that movie), how do you deliberately erase a memory?

At the most I can promise myself that I won’t sit down and brood over something. But one doesn’t only dredge up bits of one’s past on command – sometimes they show up unbidden, all on their own.

They can be as intrusive as unwanted guests, especially when images of things you’re absolutely ashamed of insist on playing out in technicolor in your head. Did you ever rob your brother/sister of a toy s/he really wanted? Did you ever say something mean to your mother or father? Is there a friend you wish you’d kept in touch with? A test you cheated on but now wish you hadn’t? Ganged up on a kid in the schoolyard?

So what’s to keep memories of wrongs done you from playing in your head? Is it enough that you’ve told yourself let bygones by bygones? Are those memories bound to color your future interactions with the person or persons involved in those incidents?

It’s the last question that troubles me. If I find myself in the same situation with one of the people who’ve hurt me in the past, would I expect them to act just as they have before? How fair is that if I say that I’ve forgiven them and no longer feel any rancor towards them?

I don’t think it’s fair at all. If one forgives then one has to start with a clean slate. So then the question becomes, how genuine is my forgiveness?

It’s genuine in so far as I don’t wish them any harm. I don’t hope bad things happen to them or mutter about karma (I may have already done those things though 😀 What? I’m not a saint! Forgiveness is something to be worked upon as anybody with any sort of family at all can tell you). I may not feel angry when I think of their past actions.

But I don’t know if I can start over with a clean slate. So then the question becomes, can we ever wipe the slate clean? Which to me sounds perilously close to the question, can we ever forgive?

If only I could answer all my own questions, I’d be one real smart kitty cat. One real smart headache-free kitty cat.


Posted by on July 29, 2007 in Life, Personal


7 responses to “To Forgive, But Forget?

  1. alphabets

    July 29, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Fantastic post!! Idea of technicolor film in the head is really brilliant. It cant be expressed better than this. 🙂

  2. the mad momma

    July 29, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    nops. my slate never gets wiped clean. because it would take a head injury to do that to me. i try to forgive. and i realy try. i am chipper and bright and nice… but i am wary for the next few occassions. if there is a repeat performance, i neither forgive nor forget.

  3. Beth

    July 29, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    There’s a great line in Grosse Pointe Blank: “Some people say forgive and forget. Nah, I don’t know. I say forget about forgiving and just accept. And… get the hell out of town.” If only getting out of town meant leaving the chosen memories behind 🙂

    I’m dying to know: why did you use Michelangelo’s Pietà?

  4. Kokonad

    July 29, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    You know, we are not very different. You and I. Except that you write brilliantly well. And have a very crisp way of putting your point across. And that you are a girl.
    OK OK, I rephrase. We are quite different, but are the same on the front of the whole forgiving and forgetting. 🙂 [Phew…]

    Anyway, I feel that not to forget something is a way for improving one’s guard and making one less vulnerable. But to forgive is to disconnect that incident with the person who actually is responsible for the same. You can still forgive someone for doing something, yet not forget WHAT exactly makes you cry a little inside. Am I being clear? :O I am not sure. Let me know if I need to put this in other words.

    But like the mad momma mouths, if there is a repeat performance, neither forgive nor forget.

    And I have the same question too – What’s Michaelangelo doing here? Am I missing something?

    YOU SET FIRE TO A BALE OF HAY? Wheee that must’ve been fun! 😀

    Btw, no prizes for guessing now, who’s the agonized agony aunt (uncle) amongst Amit’s roommates.

  5. sur

    July 30, 2007 at 4:54 am

    The initial conversation is really funny, reminds me of HP where Harry and Ron make up horrible stuff to make their professor happy! As to ur question ‘To forgive, but forget?’, each one of us have our own methods to cope with injuries, some ppl forgive and some ppl harbor the anger for years together, we do what we think is for our best!

    Forgiveness is a step towards forgetfulness, but to truly forget something, I donno our mind has this weird habit of remembering the very things we want to forget. I guess the trick lies in letting things be and not to make an extra effort to forget things, maybe with time our mind does push these memories in a place from where they don’t present themselves as unwanted guests. But even then, how do u explain when u purposely retrieve a memory thats lost in ur mind’s niches, for a lil’ bit of perverse pleasure.

    Btw, thanks for the wonderful post, I too grapple with questions like these which have no perfect answers, I so associate with ur statement.
    If only I could answer all my own questions, I’d be one real smart kitty cat. One real smart headache-free kitty cat.

  6. Amrita

    July 30, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks alphabets 🙂

    MM – thats my policy exactly with repeat offenders. You fuck up repeatedly then you can take it to someone who care coz I don’t. But then I wonder if that would remain true for all people. If my parents had been something other than who they are, would I have stuck to that? Would you stick to that with the Brat and the Bean if they ever did you wrong… repeatedly? Coz I watch this aunt of mine give her son chance after chance after chance… and I have to wonder.

    Beth – I know, can’t run from ourselves right? The Pieta – ha, I wish I had a real cool answer for that but the thing is its word association: forgive and forget -> the Lord’s prayer -> Jesus -> Mary (who had a lot to actually forgive and forget) -> Pieta, which is my favorite image of Mother and Son.

    Koke – LOL! you’re not too dusty! “Hate the sin, not the sinner”, eh? As for the Pieta, see above. And the bale of hay nearly burned down my friend’s house because it was in this little cubbyhole under her front stairs 😀 man, was I in trouble! I couldn’t skip the place fast enough. Not my proudest moment.

    Sur – thank YOU for reading and commenting. it’s my favorite part of blogging 🙂 The perverse pleasure thing is interesting. Self pity is so tempting and oddly comforting. of course, it can easily become an obsession and then you end up all psychotic so thats not good. heh.

  7. Kokonad

    July 31, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Well, that explains the origin of the warning label: “Do not store this bale of hay under the front stairs, especially if it’s a cubbyhole.” Always wondered where it came from. 🙂

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