Holden Village Staff Experience August, 2003

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Forgive and remember

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past.  A healed memory is not a deleted memory.  Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember.


We remember the good parts of the bad past.  However, we do not recreate the past in our minds to be better, less painful, or more tolerable than it was.  A wrong was done to us, that wounded us deeply.  Forgiving does not edit the wrong from our memories; it only helps us remember the postive things that follow it.


We remember the past with truth.  We get new courage to recall what happened even though it wounded us badly.  We also dare to recall our own responsibility for what happened to us, if we have any.  Forgiving gives us eyes to see ourselves in truth for what we were and what we did to add to our own pain.


We remember with a new respect for ourselves.  Victims often twist the wrong someone else did to them into something that is wrong with them.  If someone abandons us, we imagine what we were not worth keeping.  If someone abuses us, something bad in us must have made them do it.  And here's the self-healing irony:  As we begin to forgive, we aim the blame straight into the eyes of the one who wronged us, because we cannot forgive unless we were wronged, and unless we can blame the one who wronged us.  And this is what allows us to heal the self-shaming memory.


We remember with sadness.  We can feel the healed pain again and be glad for the moment's connection with the past.  It reminds us how good it is to be healed.


We remember without illusions.  Once we have gone through the work of forgiveness and have cultivated the honesty needed, we can look back on the past and remove the illusions that may have been in place for us.  Once we have removed these fantasies, we are ready for possibilities, for hope.