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    forgive and forget

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We think of forgiveness as a thing. An incident. A choice. But forgiveness is a process. A long, exhausting process. A series of choices that we have to make over, and over, and over again. Because the anger at having been wronged — the rage, the fury, the desire to lash out and cut back — doesn’t just vanish because you say to someone, “I forgive you.” Rather, forgiveness is an obligation you take on not to act punitively on your anger. To interrogate it when it arises, and accept that you have made the choice to be constructive rather than destructive. Not that you have made the choice never to be angry again.

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear (b. 1971) American author [pseud. for Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky]
Ancestral Night (2019)
Added on 6-Dec-22 | Last updated 6-Dec-22
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There is no use talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, “You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.” In the same way I could say of a certain man, “Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.” For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
Reflections on the Psalms, ch. 3 “The Cursings” (1958)
Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 17-May-22
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I ask you not to hate people who treat you badly. … This is easier to write than it is to live but there are ignorant people. Only a few are truly malicious. Hate is a poison. It can spread through your system. Forgive them if you can. Forget them if you must.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Interview in OutSmart magazine (Jan 1998)
Added on 20-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words “I will forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you have done” never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally for his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, “I will forgive you, but I won’t have anything further to do with you.” Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies. The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (25 Dec 1957)

Not to be confused with a similarly-named sermon preached on 17 November of the same year. This sermon was reprinted in Strength to Love (1963)
Added on 21-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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His voice was soft,
His manner mild.
He seldom laughed,
But he often smiled.
He’d seen how civilized men behave.
He never forgot and he never forgave,
Not Sweeney,
Not Sweeney Todd,
The demon barber of Fleet Street.

Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) American composer and lyricist
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979) [with Hugh Wheeler]
Added on 29-Apr-16 | Last updated 29-Apr-16
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