Updated: Nov 15
In his transformative work, "Forgive and Forget," Lewis Smedes delves into the profound intricacies of forgiveness, illuminating its essence with remarkable empathy and understanding. He expounds on the notion that forgiveness is not an act of disregarding or minimizing our suffering, but rather an empowering process of liberating ourselves from the stifling chains of prolonged bitterness. As eloquently stated by Smedes, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory."
Smedes' exploration of forgiveness is akin to a journey of personal growth and resilience. It commences with acknowledging our pain, embracing it, and consciously choosing to rise above it, thus preventing it from encapsulating our identities. He astutely remarks, "Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey." This affirmation guides us towards the realization that forgiveness is a courageous and enduring act, one that requires strength and vulnerability in equal measure.
One often misunderstood aspect of forgiveness is the assumption that it necessitates forgetting the harm caused to us. Smedes, however, ardently refutes this notion. He posits that remembering can, in fact, be instrumental in the journey of forgiveness. It can stand as a testament to our resilience and our ability to heal and evolve. He persuasively contends, "We do not forgive because we forget. We forgive because we remember." This implies that forgiveness is an intentional decision made in light of our recollections and feelings, rather than in their absence.
Smedes recognizes the significant role of justice in the act of forgiveness. He acknowledges the inherent challenge of forgiving when one has experienced mistreatment or victimization. However, Smedes takes a contrarian stance and warns against seeking revenge or holding onto grudges, as these actions only perpetuate the cycle of pain. Based on my clinical work, I can confirm that he is correct: nurturing grudges and seeking revenge never lead to relationship mending.
To "Forgive and Forget," is an invaluable gift - a gift we confer upon ourselves. It represents liberation from the shackles of resentment, anger, and spite. By choosing forgiveness, we opt for peace over turmoil, kindness over hostility, and hope over despair. It allows us to break free from the vicious cycle of hurt and pain, offering us a chance for healing and growth.
As you voyage towards forgiveness, bear in mind Lewis Smedes' words: "When you forgive, you set a prisoner free. But you may discover that the real prisoner was yourself." Let forgiveness serve as your conduit to inner tranquility and a deeper understanding of life's complexities. Embrace this journey. Cherish the liberation it brings. In doing so, you will reveal a stronger, more resilient version of yourself.
For more on this check out his book “forgive and forget : Healing the Hurts we don’t Deserve” by Lewis B. Smedes, a must-read for anyone seeking guidance on their journey towards forgiveness and healing. Remember, forgiveness is not just about letting go of past hurts, but also about learning to live in the present moment with compassion and love for yourself and others. So dare to forgive, and you will discover a newfound sense of freedom and inner peace.