Forgive and Forget?

Forgive and Forget? Or Why Mumford and Sons Have a Hit

Forgiveness is both a warm uplifting word and a tough hard word.  Warm and uplifting because of our ideals and aspirations that forgiveness makes us better people.  The adage “to err is human, to forgive divine”– we imagine that we are imitating the very action and presence of God when we forgive.

At the same tie forgiveness is a tough, hard word. It is easy to say and so hard to do.  Many of us are so afraid that if we forgive another we will be shown to be fools, set up by the very actions of the other that we have forgiven.   Forgiveness may be divine; yet a person risks the same thing happening when he or she offers forgiveness to another.

I see this many times when a couple is dealing with an affair.  The victim of the affair is often hurt and angry for being betrayed.  The one who had the affair often feels repentant becomes frustrated that his/her spouse can’t let go of the hurt and anger.  The victim of the affair feels that there is an extra burden to bear:  that of “forgive and forget”, another adage that our culture gives us.

Can one truly “forgive and forget” when a wrong has been done?  This is very difficult indeed.  I got a new take on this phrase when I was listening to Mumford and Sons “I Will Wait”.  The song deals with a wrong done on the part of the singer and at one point this line is sung:

“You forgave, I won’t forget”

When I heard that line a new sense of forgiveness sprang into my mind.  This song speaks to the fact that the person forgave the wrong doer but that the wrongdoer takes responsibility to not forget what he did to cause harm to the relationship. We usually say to the one wronged:  “you forgive and forget”.  This puts no responsibility on the part of the one who did the offense.  The song suggests a more reciprocal relationship between the wrong doer and the victim.

 Perhaps in small matters “forgive and forget” works for the one who was wronged.  It is easier to do this with small things.  But on bigger matters, the reciprocal nature of forgiveness comes more into play.  To really ask a person to forgive you it makes more sense to sing the song to that person: “You forgave, I won’t forget (what I did)”

The other aspect of forgiveness that comes from the song is the nature of waiting.  The song’s title is “I Will Wait”, meaning that the wrong doer, if he/she really wants forgiveness needs to:  1. Remember what the offense was and how it harmed the relationship and 2. Wait for the one who was wronged  to work a process of letting go of hurt and anger.  The waiting for the letting go of hurt and anger is a test of the sincerity of the one asking for forgiveness.

Love may be patient and kind.  Forgiveness, as an aspect of love, takes time, patience and work on the part of both the wrong doer and the one wronged.

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