Have you heard the term “Selective Memory” used when referring to someone who only seems to be able to recall those events that he or she wants to recall? Usually, it is used derisively to indicate the person is using it as an excuse for not doing something.
Usually, that is the case.
However, I know people who choose to remember only those things that continue to generate frustration and anger, and by doing so don’t even allow themselves to relive the pleasant times in their life.
For instance, in my previous life, from 1984 to 1992 I was married to a woman, we had two children (whom she has successfully turned against me) and for the last 6 or 7 years of our marriage all we did was argue. Yet, I recall many enjoyable moments, before and during the bad times; I know what was bad in that marriage, yet I choose to remember the good times and allow the bad times to remain in the background. This form of selective memory, recalling the pleasant times we had together, allows me to experience joy when I recall them. She, on the other hand, not only had chosen to recall all the bad times, but greatly embellished some of them over the years so that all she felt was pain and anger regarding me. So much so that even a normal, civil conversation was not possible for her. Once my son was old enough to take a train from their house in Queens (NY) and meet me in Manhattan (my daughter had already cut me off), I was able to disconnect from my “ex”, totally. That was a number of years ago, yet I still pray for her because I don’t know anyone who needs the love of the Lord as much as that poor, pitiful and unforgiving woman who causes herself continual pain by her selective memory.
The reason I told you about this is not to complain about her, or appear to put myself in a position of “holier-than-her”, but only as a personal example of how much better it is to selectively remember only the best parts of a relationship. And let me confess this now: I have not done this well. It took me many, many years (as my wife will confirm) just to be able to not talk about it all the time, and even today I am still fighting to not dwell on the loss of my children. I have prayer and God to help, and I am relieved to say I am getting better at not dwelling on it.
If you have had someone hurt you, and have forgiven them (as we are commanded to do), you should be able to remember the good aspects of that relationship without having to refuel the fires of hurtfulness that the sin against you caused. And, if you haven’t forgiven them, it’s about time you got with the program!
Forgiving is not forgetting, as much as it is letting go of the pain and anger. Because I have forgiven I can remember many fun times with my “ex”; our honeymoon was absolutely wonderful, we had some road trips that were great, the times we spent in the Pocono’s at a timeshare were relaxing and so much fun. I also remember there was that one vacation straight from hell, and many times during the marriage I wanted to leave. There were even times I wanted to commit suicide instead of going home. Really- it was that bad. But I now choose to leave those memories alone, and try to recall only the happy times because, well… why dwell on bad times and relive the hurt when you can remember happy times and feel good?
BTW: if you choose to relive the hurt someone caused you, it is not their fault that you are in pain. Yes, they may have struck the “first blow”, but if you choose to relive that event, over and over, now the pain you feel when reliving it is your own fault.
Of course, if someone is unforgiving, for them to relive only the happy times is probably not going to be possible. No one who is unforgiving will want to let go of their pain and sorrow, so they rip the scab off the cut every time it starts to heal. If you ask me, that’s a horrible way to live. It is so much better to remember happy times- don’t you agree?
Look- we all have bad times, and we all will remember them, but the idea is to live through the bad times and then put them behind you so you can recall only the happy times and let them fill you with joy. When loved ones pass away, we should celebrate their lives and recall all the joy they brought us; when we have marriage problems we cannot solve, we should part as people recalling that once we were able to share a love and to allow that to be the start of a new relationship. Once divorced, the marriage is dead, so we are free to begin a new relationship based on what first brought us together. And if the relationship is so damaged that it cannot continue, for whatever reason, then individually relive the happy times and remember only that what you had was a blessing while it was good. All things change, but all people do not change together.
Selective memory should not be used as an excuse for irresponsibility, but should be a means of recalling the joy we found in relationships that are no longer able to be that way. If you can recall only the happy times, you will be a happier person.