Memory and forgiveness – The Province


I. Neither forget nor forgive.

Almost forty years ago I attended the suffrage funeral of a military man assassinated by ETA; and when I approached his relatives to offer my condolences, one of the sons, with his face flushed with pain and anger, replied: I neither forget nor forgive. In those moments it seemed to me a logical reaction above other personal convictions; Today I do not know how the inner world of that person will have evolved.

Some events can be so decisive in our lives that it is not easy to channel them into oblivion; Most of the time we trust that the passage of time will remedy so much pain: Time heals everything, except old age and madness, says a saying. But we are aware that the passage of time is not always enough if there is also a decided act of will.

But let’s start with the issue of forgetting, which is not always related to desire itself, even when it refers to the faculties of memory in which we can distinguish different phases and levels; We refer to this in this way, in a somewhat light way that perhaps deserves more precision according to current studies.

We recognize our conscious memory that allows us to keep certain matters up-to-date: impacts of significant severity; concrete experiences according to the proximity in time of the events; or the presence of obsessive ideas that we cannot avoid. This memory can be reinforced from our will to update what we do not want to forget, being aware that this update of the facts is accompanied by the feelings associated with them.

On the other hand is our unconscious memory. Most of what we learn remains stored inside us, and we only wait for the attitude of memory to retrieve memories, always selectively, as students do before an exam; Either they appear associated with day-to-day routines, or when we strive to keep something present in our memory.

Finally, there is our subconscious memory, referred to the acts or events repressed or forgotten by the passage of time or by some psychological mechanism, which only emerge, and not always, through clinical techniques (hypnosis, free association of words and projective techniques) , or are manifested involuntarily in failed acts or associated strange circumstances. This type of storage can be reflected in ordinary behavior and even in certain behavioral pathologies.

When we strive not to forget, our effort is focused on keeping in mind the memory of those acts. And that actuality of our memories, as we said, also updates the emotional mechanisms associated with them: pain, anger, hatred … as well as love, gratitude, respect, depending on the nature of said memories.

Referring to the memory of the events that have hurt us, updating them in our immediate consciousness or the effort not to forget them, is not free for us. They can provoke different reactions that act as a double-edged sword: because they maintain a negative tension towards those who generated the alleged damage, and because they turn against the offended, deepening the internal wounds that those events opened in their life. From there, that memory anchored in the memory becomes a kind of tumor whose metastasis can invade even the most recondite of the person, always saving the individual differences of each one.

From the psychological point of view, it causes emotional consequences that affect the state of mind, generating a perverse and negative feeling about life itself and about society, which can cause the loss of inner peace, so necessary for a balanced life. This with the feeling that rest will not be possible until reaching the final goal of that hatred that strains the desires, and that can lead to depressive states, mental disorders, and even extremes of hopelessness.

Also in the physiological field it has its repercussion, manifesting itself in the physical aspect, which may change the expression of the face or the profile of the body, with signs of aggressiveness, hardness or decay, and even in other possible pathologies of eating or sleeping , with all that it entails.

But as life is structured from social, family, work, etc., this coexistence may also be affected, either contaminating others with one’s own negative feelings, or opening more or less insurmountable pits in relationships, leading to the destruction of ties family or friendship so necessary for the balanced rhythm of life.

And all this without entering another dimension perhaps much more relevant for some, although less sensitive for others: the spiritual level. There it causes real havoc, since these feelings are incompatible with almost all creeds. Although this deserves a reflection from a different perspective.

When a person or society chooses and proclaims with emphasis that of “neither forgetting nor forgiving”, they also assume the consequences that derive from it, even when they mark us forever; consequences whose dimension will vary according to who experiences them. And if the decision is to keep certain memories alive in memory that demand strong responses to the alleged measure of the offense received, and this in the interests of possible desires for justice, revenge, or compensation for damages, it is good to be aware that it will be necessary to assume its consequences because, as we said, all this will require paying a price that cannot be avoided.

II. I forgive but I do not forget.

The statement constitutes a certain contradiction, since whoever insists on remembering is giving way to the negative feelings that are generated in us, unless that “not forgetting” reflects the impossibility of detaching ourselves from those memories.

There was a world upheaval on May 13, 1981, when the Turkish Mehmet Ali Ağca shot Pope John Paul II. Days later, from the clinic, the Pope confessed: “I pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven.” This forgiveness was evidenced in the interview that both held in the penitentiary. In 2014, Ali Ağca went to Saint Peter with two dozen white roses to lay on the tomb of Saint John Paul II, thus making the miracle of turning swords and spears into plowshares and pruning shears a reality (Is. 2,4).

Beautiful love story in forgiveness. But forgiveness is not one thing. A person may be open to forgive, but there needs to be another person receptive to forgiveness, with the effort to rebuild life on the basis of that forgiveness that he recognizes, accepts and appreciates as a generous gift. And that attitude has to manifest itself through unmistakable and recognizable signs.

I understand by forgiving the decision to continue behaving with those who have generated their offensive action, as if that had not happened. And once forgiveness is consummated, it exerts an incredible therapeutic force on both sides: in the one who generously gives it as well as in the one who humbly receives it.

It acts on the person who forgives, because just by being aware that one is capable of exercising forgiveness, it already gives the person a more balanced functioning; and it is commonly accepted that people open to forgiveness are less likely to suffer from anxieties, depression, or negative effects of various traumas. This is one of the strengths of our Christian civilization.

And it acts on the person who is forgiven because, by being aware of the harm caused and the forgiveness received, it frees itself to a great extent from the feeling of guilt and from a large part of the possible physical, psychological and social repercussions that may have been generated in the person himself. And this without entering the spiritual realm where, according to religion, the guarantee of possible happiness rests, save as always.

In short, we could say that if hatred has the capacity to generate a corrosive and destructive force in all directions, forgiveness has a powerful regenerative capacity.

But it is clear that whoever grants forgiveness can do so from their personal choice of generosity, conviction, or even self-interest due to the positive effect it generates on themselves. But for those who receive it, it does not happen automatically. Within the Catholic religion, a series of steps were articulated as a necessary condition to receive forgiveness. Following this criterion, we define the following process: it is necessary to analyze one’s behavior in a sincere way, taking ethical or moral criteria as a reference; and recognize the damage caused; and that there is a real feeling for the harm caused; and strive effectively that these events do not occur again; and ask for forgiveness; and be willing to restore the evil caused. If the process is not followed, we can talk about something else, but not about forgiveness in all its depth.

We are facing an extremely complex, difficult and unfortunately not too abundant issue, both due to the large dose of generosity required on the one hand, and the no less great humility, on the other. And if we hurry a little more, delving into the roots of the feelings that are at the base of everything, we are facing a very difficult process without the ability to exercise real love towards oneself and towards others, as well as to value that love. and be willing to respond to it in the same way.

Neither forget nor forgive? I forgive but I do not forget? Dilemma not always easy to answer both individually and socially, but which, unfortunately, is sometimes approached with too much frivolity.

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