Forgive And Forget
This blog is based on two quotes. The first one comes from Ali Ibn Abi-Talib. Not heard of him? He was the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet. Born in approximately the year 600, Ali is believed to have been born in Mecca within the Ka’bah and reigned as the fourth caliph of Sunni Islam and the first Imam of Shia Islam until his death in 661. The second quote comes from Ignacz Rüb. Not heard of him either? That’s because he was my grandfather. Born in Romania to a Jewish family in 1922, my grandfather ended up in Auschwitz after a stint as a forced conscript in the Hungarian Army in 1941. He survived his time in a number of concentration camps, including Auschwitz, thanks to his skills as an engineer. He left behind an oral testimony at the Shoah Foundation which formed the basis for my undergraduate thesis and was the first time I had ever heard his full story because he had died when I was too young to ask him questions about his time during the Holocaust. Here are the two quotes:
“The best deed of a great man is to forgive and forget”
Ali Ibn Abi-Talib
“If you hate someone, the one you hate isn’t hurt, he doesn’t know about it, he doesn’t care. But when you hate it hurts you. And if you hate, you cannot judge things correctly; try not to hate, don’t forget, you cannot forget, but don’t hate”
These two men lived almost 1400 years apart and experienced incredibly different lives. In fact, their quotes probably reflect this. While Ali believes man should not only forgive the misdeeds of others but also forget about them, my grandfather acknowledges the importance of forgiveness (or at least not hating those who do wrong) but not forgetting. After his experiences in Auschwitz, my grandfather was plagued with nightmares for the of his life. He couldn’t have forgotten what happened to him and what he saw even if he had wanted to.
I want this blog to focus more on the forgiving aspect of both quotes than the forgetting. To be honest, I’m siding with my grandfather on this. I don’t think we should forget past actions which hurt us. Humans, in theory, can learn from the past and learn from mistakes. How can we learn lessons from history if we are encouraged to forget those events which most harm society and the planet? That said, it appears we’re not great at learning from past mistakes … Psychologically, the concept of forgetting which is encouraged by Ali, could be considered repression, and this is thoroughly unhealthy. It is better to come to terms with what has happened, accept it and move on. In other words, forgive.
“When you hate it hurts you.” This is so true although I fear my grandfather, understandably, was never really able to live by these words. He may not have wanted to feel embittered and hateful towards the perpetrators who killed every family member apart from one sister but I don’t believe he ever managed to truly move past his experiences in the Holocaust. Psychology, my mother’s chosen career not uninfluenced by her father’s attitude to life, tells us that it is important to let go of grudges and move on from bitterness. The embracing of forgiveness enables us to move forward, grow as individuals and live a happier life.
People who forgive often enjoy healthier relationships, a happier mindset, less stress, lower blood pressure, a better immune system, higher self esteem and are less prone to depression. Put simply, forgiveness is healthy and bitterness is unhealthy. However, it is worrying easy for humans to hold grudges. We’re good at it. When we’ve been hurt or betrayed by someone, particularly when it is a person we trust, there is a strong sense of injustice and bitterness. We don’t want to take a blasé approach and forgive and forget. In some strange way, a grudge is satisfying. At least at the start. But then after a while it becomes burdensome and lonely and makes it harder to form new relationships as well as leading to depression and even health problems.
We can still feel hurt by the actions or words of other people and the acknowledgement of these emotions is an important aspect of the forgiveness process. Take stock of the situation, digest it but then think about the negative impact your grudge is having on your life. When you’re ready to be free of this negativity, and there is no fixed timescale when it comes to this, you can choose to forgive them. People who forgive others are generally considered more compassionate and understanding and, probably, more likely to do good deeds. According to Ali, forgiveness is itself a good deed. Why not go and post in the More Good Deeds app and tell us about when you forgave someone who wronged you. Not only will you feel better for verbalising the fact that you’ve moved on and are in a positive place but your chosen charity will get a $1 as well, thanks to More Good Deeds’ supporters.
Go, do, experience. More Good Deeds.