Forgive and forget. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? You forgive a person for whatever he/she did to you and then you forget. You move on and the past stops haunting you.

Life, however, doesn’t work out that way. You may think it does, but you can’t just forgive and forget.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. Apologizing isn’t easy either, and so we think that when someone who hurts us apologizes, they deserve to be forgiven. Understanding how much you’ve hurt another and accepting your crime doesn’t necessarily mean you deserve to be forgiven. Thus even if you muster your courage and practice your lines, there is a chance your apology won’t be accepted and that you won’t be forgiven.

You can’t blame people for not being forgiving. When life keeps treating one badly, they stop being able to forgive. Further, people often take advantage of the ability to forgive. We are told to give people a second chance, but when this second chance becomes a fifth or sixth chance, can you still forgive them? More importantly, can you be expected to forgive them?

As difficult as it is to do and as unfair it seems, we are told to forgive people and we are told that this is for our own benefit. Not forgiving people means we carry around bitterness in us. This bitterness eats at our souls and it reduces our happiness to ashes that are blown away from our lives. Yet, we often can’t help but be bitter. We don’t ask for others to hurt us and we can’t stop others from hurting us. When we have no control over the circumstances we face, we often have no control over the emotions we feel. When someone hurts us, we can’t be expected to forget the incident and forgive the person.

However, let’s say that we do manage to forgive another, can we truly forget the pain inflicted on us? Even if we forgive someone, forgetting is a time-consuming process. Can we push away those memories and erase them from our minds? Can we divide memories as good and bad and delete the folder with the bad memories? In Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami writes, ‘Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.’ The truth of these words can be seen by us all for we all have memories that warm us from the inside but also tear us apart.

It is this latter category that we try hard to forget and yet, we fail again and again. Thus even if the intensity of bitterness in life is reduced through forgiveness, it remains in our lives as long as we remember what caused us to be bitter.

The best way to forget memories is to stop forcing our minds to forget them. The need to pee badly is a terrible feeling and if we have to wait a while before being able to find a toilet, we are told to not think about it. This is such bad and useless advice because there’s nothing else you can think about, and as the voices in your mind get louder, the urge to urinate worsens.

When we make a conscious effort to not think of something, our minds do the complete opposite and wander off to those memories we want to forget. However, if we make no effort to forget memories and instead let time deal with it, we may realize that we haven’t thought about a particular incident or person in a very long time.

It is possible to forget memories, at least for a short time. However, it isn’t as easy as the phrase ‘forgive and forget’ implies. At the blink of an eye or snap of fingers, you can’t forgive and forget. You can’t even do one of them at the blink of an eye. Accepting apologies and forgetting memories take a long time and sometimes, an entire lifetime isn’t enough to forgive and forget.

This is why we need to be careful. We need to be careful around others so that we aren’t hurt and we should also be careful to not hurt other people. For just as it takes us time to forgive and forget, it will take other people time to forgive and forget too and there’s no feeling worse than knowing you haven’t been forgiven.

Shailendree W Adittiya