We have all heard the old saying “Forgive and Forget.” As an adult I know it is not meant to be taken literally, but as a child that is what I thought should happen. It took me nearly 40 years of emotional turmoil to unravel such a simple concept and change my mindset to “Forgive and Grow.”
A Little Background
A simple saying can be difficult for a child or victim of abuse or a violent crime to process. I guess where the saying fails us is, do we ever really forget? Or, is forgetting a condition of forgiving? Years ago I learned many lessons and blessings were a result of all I had endured as a child and teen. After all, there was tremendous growth resulting from years of trying to make sense of what I had experienced.
The biggest hang up as a child, is I believed forgive and forget were related and if I genuinely had forgiven someone, then I would no longer remember their offenses and trust would be restored. After all, forgetting something means a trust was never broken, right? This is how my childhood mind worked. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was how it really worked? I tried to suppress my feelings in order to make it all go away thinking everything would be normal. The downside to this common response is internalizing will only manifest in other ways. It makes the healing process so much harder because you have to unravel all the incorrect beliefs and messages created by not examining or coping with those emotions and memories in a safe environment.
Working in the medical field, I have read many articles on the brain, and how it responses to trauma. Many areas of the brain are activated both during and then after the traumatic event(s). Trying to suppress everything in one location of the brain, to internalize, does not work because coping requires the activation of the corresponding areas in the brain.
The A-Ha Moment
A few years ago, I was working hard to figure out why I was stuck in this cycle. I would place a trust with those I had forgiven, and then become overwhelmed with guilt each time they broke my trust. Then guilt would set in because it would trigger my PTSD leading me to question whether or not I had forgiven them because I remembered the traumatic situations in which they were involved. I was stuck on the forgetting aspect of the simple saying, which was not so simple in my mind.
One day, I was talking with a friend I felt safe with to try to understand why I was trapped in this constant cycle. Using each other as a sounding board, we went back and forth with various questions and answers. We came up with this conclusion. If forgiveness and trust are so closely related for me, I should trust those individuals will continue to react or respond in the same way as before. The exception being an intervention to provide a change in them.
Dr. Phil has several quotes out there to bring my realization together. Such as: “The best predictor of future behavior…is past behavior.” There is a lot of truth to this statement, but it did not hit me as being entirely accurate because I believe people can and will change if they step up to become accountable for their actions and do the right things to earn trust.
Forgive and Grow
I have determined, I need to change the word forget to grow. To minimize a visceral reaction in the pit of my stomach, I need to focus on the positive growth experiences that have profoundly impacted my life. Many blessings and miracles have come from the trauma in my life making me the person I am today.
We all experience traumatic events, they are all around us, but the impact and our responses vary. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to see those positive changes particularly when emotions are still attached. With time and determination, we are able to overcome those big obstacles. We will be able to look back and see how it has changed or help us become a better person.
Our biggest challenge is to determine responses to will help us grow. Much easier said than done but we can each choose. Sometimes it is difficult to see all the options, let alone determine the right ones. Even if we choose incorrectly, it doesn’t mean there are not opportunities to make new and different choices. It is often in our mistakes where we find the most growth. When we humble ourselves and seek assistance from the Lord our abilities are increased. If we need to forget, forget the hurt that can hinder our growth. Remember the actions that can help our healing.
There is empowerment, growth, and knowledge to be gained as we develop better relationships with those who have hurt us. By setting appropriate boundaries, we can assist them to succeed in building trust. It is not easy. It took me 40 years to fully comprehend how this could all come together for me. My healing is not complete, but I know it’s possible. And that knowledge helps me to move forward with my dreams which mean everything to me.