This question recently came up in one of my classes, The Science of Happiness, and to be honest, I was taken off guard slightly by the question. The person who asked was referring to a woman who was a Holocaust survivor who had been tortured along with her twin sister by a doctor who used them as test subjects who recently came out to forgive the Nazi party for what they did to her and her family. The real question was, was she right to do so?
After all the horrible things that were done to her and her family, a part of me immediately screamed “no!” How could anyone deserve forgiveness after the horrors they had inflicted in another human being’s life. But, another part of me – I’d like to think that part of me is more reflective of my true feelings – told me to hold my tongue.
We are taught as children to forgive and forget, but that may not necessarily be the right thing for us to teach our people. In this situation, to forget would be a terrible thing. What happened is something that will forever impact our world and if we were to forget that fact, we would be doing a huge injustice to the integrity of the past. More than just that, even, if we forgot what happened, we would not be able to learn from it. Without acknowledging what we have gone through, we are bound to recreate the situation in some way or another and end up having history repeating each other. So I’d like to think that we should remove the “forget” part out of that saying.
However, the forgive part is a whole different debate, bringing me back to the original question. I’d like to think that the answer to this question is yes, it is good and right to forgive someone for a wrongdoing. In order to grow as a person and move on from the past, it is important to let go of the bad things that are holding you back. One of the most common things that holds us back are grudges or hatreds towards people or things. To move on from those, it is important to forgive so that it is possible to move on from that grudge.
That is not to say, though, that the forgiving is forgetting. Yes, forgiveness means you let go of your feelings towards a person or a place, but it does not mean you have to forget about it. It is more of an acknowledgement that whatever the situation as happened in the past and then a conscious effort to move forward and give yourself room to go.
I’d like to think forgiveness in the mind is like a garage filled with storage boxes – where each box is like a bad memory or feeling towards a person or situation. If there are too many storage boxes in the garage, it is impossible to put new things into the garage – perhaps a shiny new car. Sometimes, it is necessary to throw things away or move things to storage. Sometimes, it is important to just let go of these things that are cluttering your garage, or mind, in order to allow yourself room to grow.
What I’d like to say to this question is yes. It is good and right to forgive. It is important, in my opinion to let go and allow yourself to grow. But, I’d like to say that to forget would be a big injustice. Whether I am right or not is, of course, up for debate. Everyone has a different idea about this question – many of which involve the situation in which the question comes up. So, what do you think?