What I’ve learnt about remembrance

I used to be a radical believer of the ‘forgive and forget’ philosophy. I always thought that remembering painful events interferes with the healing process.

But the problem with forgetting is that not only is it nearly impossible to do, it also does nothing for healing. It is just a façade that is always at risk of being broken if there is a trigger.

It is important to remember. But even that is not really as simple as it may sound. I’ve been pondering on it lately and talking to people about it, and this is what I’ve learnt.

I’ve learnt that remembering is not the same as dwelling on the past. Dwelling on the past is refusing to let go of hatred and anger. It’s allowing yourself to be absorbed by regret, fear and guilt.

Remembering, on the other hand, is reflecting on the past to build a better future. It’s realising how far you’ve come and as a result, working hard not to go back to the place of pain.

I’ve learnt that true remembrance demands that all the facts be laid bare. As one gentleman said to me, and I quote, “It can’t be only about what makes you feel good, paints you in good light or tells only your side of the story.”

This denies you the opportunity to make the necessary changes and to grow.

So then, remembrance can only be truly be maximized when you remember the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The thing about the truth though, is that it can be subjective.

Often times there are varying interpretations or recollections of the same situation depending on who you ask. It’s common to find an offender who truly believes that he/she is the victim. A victim can also truly believe that he/she is the offender.

Because of that, seeking the truth sometimes requires the difficult task of setting aside personal experiences, opinions and prejudices; removing yourself from the situation so that you can see it clearly at all angles.

Because there is such a thing as being too close to something to see it for what it truly is.

I’ve learnt that there are those who are always looking to propagate lies and spin the truth for personal gain or selfish reasons.

They are often confident, imposing and loud. And if you are not careful to remember, they can make you doubt your own experience or make everyone else doubt you.

I’ve learnt that remembering is imperative to avoiding repetition of mistakes. In the immediate aftermath of an event when the memory is fresh, pain is raw and fear is still looming, people appreciate the magnitude of the problem that they have just encountered.

They will likely be very enthusiastic about not letting it happen again. But as time goes on, if nothing is done to keep that memory fresh, it just becomes an event of the past with seemingly little importance to the future. And that is a dangerous thing because history is always at risk of repeating itself.


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