Though we may master forgiveness, forgetting is sometimes easier said than done. Even if we’ve done the work of forgiveness, when the dying embers of troubled memories are fanned to life by some reminder, especially during the holiday season, it’s not always our first impulse to douse the flames with the water of forgiving and forgetting. Sometimes we’d rather just get cozy, make some s’mores, and enjoy the roaring bonfire of our hurt and indignation.
There we find ourself engulfed in the raging blaze of a circular conversation in our mind that begins with the misdeeds of others and ends with our need for justice and vindication. It seems almost impossible to forget whatever brought us to this place of emotional misery. Somehow the fires of our memory find the oxygen needed to live on, especially when we grieve through the holidays.
Scraping back through unpleasant memories is an easy habit to fuel. But no matter how often we stir the ashes, the outcome will always be the same. If ever there is to be a chance to extinguish the fire, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually we must “stop, drop, and roll.”
When at last we are ready to let go of negative, destructive thoughts and forget the painful events and unkind people who have harmed us or hurt us in our life, we master the spiritual art of Holy Forgetfulness. When we do, we forget to remember and remember to forget. Holy Forgetfulness is about extinguishing the fire before it can threaten our soul and spirit, "You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away” (Job 11:16). Forgetting to remember is like having a fire extinguisher strapped to our tool belt—it’s an essential piece of survival equipment, a lasting takeaway from our personal experience of life and love and grief.
We will never, ever forget the one we love and now grieve. Whatever our relationship—intense love, sad disaffection, or somewhere in between—our shared love will always be part of our life. When we forget the forgettable, and hold fast to our most unforgettable memories, we make space in our heart for the things in our life that are worthwhile, valuable, and truly memorable. In grief we are sustained by our best memories, those that are better remembered rather than forgotten.
Forgiving and forgetting may be the best gift we can give to others and to ourself as we approach the holiday season ahead. In forgiving and forgetting we experience the life-giving joy of God’s unconditional love, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 10:2).
...but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
Philippians 3:13 RSV