“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.”
This statement, from Rabbi Ken Cohen, is truly worth considering
Apologize? I know people who can’t get the words, “I’m sorry” out of their mouths. They sometimes will say, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” IFyou hurt me? Obviously you did or you wouldn’t have gotten this far. But “if” I hurt you is not an apology. Why can’t these folks just say it? Because they are afraid; afraid that admitting wrong doing will make them subject to derision. It does indeed take courage to make yourself vulnerable by admitting an error or wrong doing. I know families whose members remain fractured because one or more people are not brave enough to acknowledge that they are human, fallible and have done something wrong to another person.
Do be brave. Is there someone that you are uncomfortable seeing because you know you have wounded them? Don’t waste time trying to justify your self. Pray, talk to your clergy person, read about how to apologize even when it scares you.
Forgive? Being able to forgive someone is tremendously liberating. It means you are not waiting for someone else to act. If you can forgive and move on, you own your life. No, don’t keep deceivers or hurtful people in your life. But forgive those people you love for being imperfect – you probably are imperfect too.
Forget? This one is a bit trickier. Utterly forgetting what transpired is not a good idea. But we do get to chose what and how we remember. A year and a half ago my sister died after a brief struggle with cancer. While we had been very close when we were younger she had become a very angry adult. She requested, through our other sister, that I not attempt to see her. It was hard but I promised. In the last weeks of her life her son told me to come see her. I was so conflicted as I felt I had made a promise to her and wanted to honor it. But in the end I went. She was a shriveled scrap of her self; it was shocking. As soon as she saw me she started to cry. I went to her and hugged her gently, “I love you,” was all I could say. She wept and said, “I love you too.”
Now I could try to forget the down right dangerous things my beloved sister had done but that would have meant not seeing the real pain she had left behind in my other family members. It would have meant not learning anything from all the misery, including her illness. But I could choose to focus on the memories of good times. I could pull out photos of us swimming or playing or hugging. That is what I chose. I will remember what went wrong and hope to avoid and heal that. AND I can remember my beloved sister as she was when we were best friends.
If you are able, and I know that family members don’t always allow you to contact them, consider healing a relationship this coming week. You will be able to celebrate a true personal liberation.
May we all be blessed with many imperfect, but loving family members and friends.