One of the habits I’ve formed over the years is to try to quickly forget whenever someone does harm to me and just move on with my life. I’m of the sort that when a wound cuts, it cuts deeply, and I’m trying to get beyond that by learning not to take things so personally. I thought putting it out of mind was the best way to prevent these cuts and wounds from impacting me more than they should.
I get rejected for a job. Nothing personal. Move on. I get rejected for a date. Nothing personal, move on. No sense in nursing wounds and bearing grudges, amirite?
But then I had an epiphany one day when I looked at some of the small physical scars I had on my hands, and I couldn’t remember how I got them. Scars from long ago, with no recollection of the injuries that caused them. And then it occurred to me: even though I had long since forgotten, the scars WERE STILL THERE.
I wondered then if that’s why I would sometimes be angry for no apparent reason, or wake up depressed even though the sun was out and a good day was ahead of me. That’s when I realized, I may no longer have any memory of all the hurts that have accrued over the years, but those emotional scars were STILL there. Forgetting wasn’t enough. See, it had always been my rationale that you can’t get angry or bitter over a hurt if you’ve long since forgotten about it. That’s why when a close friend suggested that my tendency to immediately expect to be rejected by people stemmed from my father abandoning me when I was a kid, I scoffed at it. I was glad my father left and barely gave him a minute’s thought since then. I had simply forgotten about him.
But forgetting didn’t exorcise the wound he left behind. It colored my thinking as I grew up, to the point where I wholly expect people to generally dislike me, hate me and ultimately reject me from their lives, their social circles, or the jobs they might offer. Rejections piled upon rejections, and when I WASN’T rejected, I would immediately get suspicious, like there was some nefarious motive behind it. Or I would then get really stupid and purposely act in a belligerent manner that so puts people off that they have no choice but to reject me. Rejection was like an old, comfortable shoe, and to not be rejected put me in new territory and could make me a bit paranoid. Because it I hadn’t been rejected now, all that meant was that I was soon going to be rejected later. And even worse, when I least expect it too.
One of my last friendships was like that. You hit it off, you think things are going well, but then months later, without warning, you’re just… rejected. The friendship is over, and you’re left picking up the pieces, not knowing why. It’s one of the reasons why I keep most people at arm’s length. Any acceptance of me I regard with suspicion, because I believe such acceptance is false and will only result in more rejection anyway.
All this, because of past hurts that I have long since FORGOTTEN about.
Clearly forgetting wasn’t enough. If I really wanted to prevent the hurts of the past from haunting the present and future, I needed to learn how to forgive too. Or else, I’m going to wind up like Bob Kelso: