Article in brief: the author compares forgiving with forgetting, how incomplete would the forgiving be without fully forgetting, and concluding with giving an example of the most ideal forgiving case.
I’ve asked a lot of people in my life about forgiveness. Questions like, what does it take for you to forgive? Does it depend on the person or act? How long will it take for you to forgive? Is this forgiveness eternal? How will you act with the person after they’ve hurt you or wronged you?
“O Allah, You are forgiving. You love to forgive, so forgive me”
A friend answered my questions by saying “If Allah almighty forgives us humans, who are we not to forgive each other?” Many agreed with what she said and added that one forgives not for people but for them to feel better about themselves. If you carry hatred or sadness in your heart because someone wronged you, it will weigh you down. So forgive to liberate yourself from such a burden; forgive so you could be free.
What’s interesting is that another friend had a different comment on that and said, “We can’t compare ourselves to Allah; He is perfect and we are not. We are humans and because of that not everyone can find the strength to forgive”. This made me think of what most people told me: “yes, of course we forgive”. But the question is, do they really?
I will forgive but not forget
Most people echoed this phrase: “we forgive but don’t forget”. That got me thinking of forgiveness from another angle. If you forgive but don’t forget and you always have that certain memory of someone hurting you, wouldn’t that just be a constant personal reminder of hurt? And have you really forgiven them? I know many might think that this reminder is only to protect yourself from further hurt or to distance yourself from that person altogether. But my question is, wouldn’t it be easier to forgive AND forget? Just forget altogether the incident that happened and keep some distance if you wanted, without having to remind yourself every single time you see them or think about them of the hurt they caused you. To me it sounds unfair. It’s unfair because I make mistakes, as all of us do, and I wouldn’t want people’s memory of me to be the constant reminder of me wronging them. It’s fortunate that I have a rather short-term memory when it comes to such matters, so I can forget about those memories and not hold it against people.
There is a story about the Prophet Mohammed PBUH that demonstrates his willingness not only to forgive, but also to always forget the ill doing of others. Prophet Mohammed PBUH used to pass daily in front of the house of an old woman on his way to the masjid. The old woman made it a habit to throw trash on the Prophet whenever he passed by. This was a daily habit and not once did the prophet show any signs of anger or annoyance. One day, he passed by and noticed the old lady wasn’t there so he asked about her to find out she was ill. Even with what she put him through he still went to visit the old lady to see if she needed any help.
If that story does not show you what forgiveness is, I don’t know what will.
Shamma holds a Masters Degree in Human Rights and a BA in International Affairs. She currently works as an instructor at Zayed University. Having volunteered with people with disability for more than 10 years, she devotes her career and free time to work closely with vulnerable groups to create a visible impact in society. Having interests in philosophy, human psyche, sociology, and literature her column “12 Lessons” will focus on issues that we face as a part of the trial and error process that is life.
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