I’ll warn you upfront, this is a bit of a rant.  I have had this thrown at me several times over the past two years, and it’s getting old.

Are we called to simply, ‘forgive and forget’ when others hurt us or offend us?  Are we to overlook EVERY wrong deed, and just let it go?  When folks do ‘forgive and forget,’ are they even truly forgiving?

My husband and I had a fallout with a close family member about 18 months ago.  My husband was the one directly affected, and I got caught in the crossfire.  It was a very difficult situation for my husband and I to endure, but we did.

There are always three sides to every story.  Each party has their point of view, and then somewhere in the middle is the truth.  It seems to me that forgiveness and reconciliation cannot occur until both parties agree to seek that truth, and come to some sort of agreement on who offended whom and how.  Until both parties are willing to humbly go through this exercise, forgiveness simply cannot take place.

In the wake of the situation I had people telling me to ‘forgive and forget, it’s family after all,’ as if blood relation means that one should just get over it, when, in my estimation, if ‘family’ were esteemed as much as these folks claim, then the situation never would have happened in the first place.  (how is that for a run-on sentence??)

I had an aunt and grandma each send me a note, tucked inside the packaging for my daughters’ birthday gifts that came through the mail.  Both of these notes, in effect, told me to just get over it, that I was breaking the family apart by carrying this out.  Despite any first hand knowledge of the situation and despite never having talked to either me or my husband about our perspective, they both felt justified in telling me that I was wrong.  (apparently they wanted to add to the list of folks needing my forgiveness).

The incident came up a few months back in a conversation with a former school teacher, who rendered the same advice.  Once again today, in conversation with an old family friend, I was told to ‘forgive and forget, it’s family.’

I wonder if the folks dishing out this advice even know what they mean when they say these words.

Forgive and forget = pretend like it never happened.  Sorry, that just does work.

All the people offering this advice have been people who know both parties (also non-Christians, which somewhat excuses the bad theology).  I’m sure it pains them to know that there is now a riff in the family, but what they don’t know is that it’s a work of God that the riff did not occur long before.

I do think there needs to be a willingness to forgive.  I don’t think we should be walking around bitter, replaying the incident over and over again in our mind.  If that was the intended meaning of these well-intentioned folks, then I’d agree, but that’s not what they meant.  They wanted us to just act like nothing ever happened.  How does one do that?  How can they live a lie like that?  How can one continue on, and not acknowledge something MAJOR has occurred?

When one forgives, it entails a promise to never again bring up the incident.  How can I promise to do that when the incident has never been addressed and resolved?

And forget, what do they mean by that?  Seems to me forgetting may simply be stupid.  If someone has a pattern of behavior that is harmful to you or your family, you may forgive them after heartfelt repentance was offered, but it equates to brain damage to ‘forget’ their pattern, and continue to put yourself in harmful situations with that person.  You don’t necessarily have to avoid them all together, but maybe you do avoid particular situations.

If my brother was a horrible drive, always getting into accidents due to his recklessness, even injuring me on one occasion, I may forgive him, but shoot me in the head if I get into a car with him again.  Come on people!!

And when we toss around this cliché, we put the burden of reconciliation on the offended party, and let the offender get off scot-free.  The tactic here seemed to be to guilt us into just moving on, RATHER THAN addressing the pride in the other person (maybe in us too), convincing them that they need to come clean about the incident.  It sure is a lot easier to guilt-trip the non-confrentational party than confront the proud, haughty party.  So I don’t necessarily blame them there.  But even if they were able to create peace through this tactic, it would be a false peace.  (thankfully I have married a man who doesn’t cave into the guilt-trippings of my family, and I am finally learning to stand up the them as well — haha, your powers are wearing off…)

So, to close my rant, if we must continue with meaningless, useless clichés that don’t help anyone, can we at least find one to replace ‘forgive and forget’, ’cause I’m just about out of patience for hearing this one said.

~Rant Over

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