“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”
— Thomas Szasz
The mere fact that the Duggar’s, and their extended family, refuse to just go away, has led me, in part, down the thorny path of forgiveness. I will spend more time on the subject at some point in the future – it fits so well in the compassion realm that I almost have to – but for now I’ll try to keep it short.
Although very applicable in Josh Duggar’s case, I’m not addressing the Christian aspect of forgiveness here, except to say that I find that too many people seem to use that as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Jesus forgives all of my sins, therefore you should too – this would be fine, except that many seem to believe that the apparently the endless cycle of forgiveness continues even with a demonstrable lack of self-restraint, and repeat offenses (this is similar to my unease with those that feel that doing good works, or just respecting others, is unnecessary because Christ’s grace takes care of that too). There is more than a small grain of hubris involved in this thinking, because it assumes that all non-Christians, or those not Christian enough, might go to hell for their sins, but not me – I’m guaranteed a place in heaven because my faith is stronger, and therefore better.
As with most other things, there are two sides to the forgiveness equation. Forgiveness on the part of the harmed party is actually the easier part of the equation to address, and is what I’m focusing on here, but the subject cannot be entirely divorced from the flip side – that of the forgiven. Part of that side is the need to understand that forgiveness doesn’t equal restoration of the way things were. Self-forgiveness also comes into play on that side, and it is helpful, though not necessary to be forgiven, if one can forgive oneself first. And there is a somewhat different equation when a larger group needs to forgive hypocritical public figures – which also applies in the Duggar case, but is outside of my scope today.
Forgiveness is actually about ‘me’, not about ‘you’. Forgetting is not possible, and is not necessary for forgiveness. Forgiving someone is letting go of the pain that they caused, and moving forward from there. It doesn’t mean trust has been restored. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a marriage can be saved, or a friendship recovered. But sometimes it does. Confusion over this point, I think, makes it harder for us to forgive – we don’t understand how to forgive because we think it means that everything can return to what it was. And we think that, somehow, we should be able to make that happen. And we think that we want things to be as they were. But what was is gone – and maybe wasn’t all that perfect to begin with. And part of what we have to do when letting go of the pain is decide what the new normal is. And no one on the outside can tell us what that choice should be – only we know what we need, and what makes sense for us. And we need to trust ourselves enough to make that call.
“We can never obtain peace with the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”
— Dalai Lama