Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on some words we often hear but that we seldom stop to analyze, “Forgive but don’t forget.”
How can I forgive someone if I can’t forget the injustice they inflicted on me or my loved ones? If every time I see their face it brings back a nauseating feeling that borders disgust? And let’s say I forgive them. Is it humanly possible to forget the horrible feelings they once put you through? I may have found a partial answer to my questions in the voice of a lady from a country torn apart by war. She bravely stood up there and told the 100 plus people in the room that her son and husband had been killed. But that she forgives their killer. She chooses to rise above it if it means salvaging what’s left of her country. Because her ordeal and sorrow are only one drop in an ocean of blood.
How was she able to rise above such an atrocity? How can she accept that the killer is still able to take breath after breath while her loved ones’ lives were so brutally brought to an end? How can one rise above such a wound and come to terms with such a senseless killing?
She says she did it because her love for her country was greater.
As I was sitting there in the booth and translating her emotionally charged message with a shaky voice and a lump the size of America climbing up my throat, I thought to myself only a woman is capable of such an unfathomable sacrifice, and more precisely a mother. While the audience listened in silence and awe to her words, there were tears, there was admiration, there was even a standing ovation. I witnessed all this. And I could not help but think of that woman for the next few days. What she said haunted me. Her ordeal was beyond words (and the sad fact is that she is one of countless others). I kept repeating in my head what she said and tried to compare it with what I personally had done in my life on the subject of forgiveness. By comparison my “ordeals” in life were a walk in the park, and the injustice I had thought was the worst thing ever seemed like a lame joke. But that’s not the point, because all things in life are relative.
The point is, how in some cases, have I not been able to accept and forget while she could? What did she do that I did not? It took me a few more hours of careful pondering to find what seems like a sensible answer, one that had been in front of my eyes all along but that I’d failed to see: You can’t build a future if you constantly look back at the past. You can look back at the past but don’t let it stand in the way of your future. Look at the big picture rather than the trivial details in the background. Is this big picture worth letting go of all the hatred and all the grudges? It usually always is worth it but we are too distracted by the background noise that we miss the beauty of the bigger picture. Letting go is a daily exercise. I don’t think that lady woke up one day and decided she no longer is in pain. She still is struggling with her pain every day, but she vowed to make peace with it rather than fight it, to accept it rather than deny it. All for the sake of a greater cause.
And I thought to myself, “I knew all along what my greater cause was. What was I waiting for?”…