Girl Talk: Forgive but forget me not
Now the marks have been submitted (whee!), I have a little time to ponder – and share with you – some of the excellent work I had the pleasure to appraise through QUT's feature writing course this semester. This column by the vivacious Ellen-Maree Elliot was written in class time. The subject: "You know what I really hate...".
You know what I really hate? The phrase: “Forgive and forget”. Not the whole phrase. I generally think forgiveness is pretty important for closure and moving on and maintaining and strengthening relationships. My main problem is with the “forget”.
Last Monday my little sister, who is eleven, killed her bird. In the early hours of the morning, we found the grey and white cockatiel struggling for life, starving and too exhausted to open his mouth for water. Mum cradled the bird, stroking his soft feathers until his tiny heart stuttered to a stop. He died because his owner was more preoccupied with replaying Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” over and over and over (and over) than with feeding him.
My sister's chest heaved and tears streamed from her big blue eyes. I wanted to cuddle her and tell her it was alright; that it wasn’t her fault. But I couldn’t, because it wasn’t alright and it was her fault. But I did forgive her because I, too, have been guilty of murder of a cockatiel through neglect (R.I.P. Arthur, how I miss the way you would whistle "Jingle Bells" with me). While I have forgiven myself for that gross indiscretion, forget it I never will.
Seriously, one of the most amazing gifts we’ve been given as human beings is memory. I firmly believe the reason I remembered Arthur in light of my sister's atrocity, and the girl who spread (rather nasty) rumours about me in year nine, or the (rather nasty) rumours I spread about another girl in year eight is not a character flaw, but a survival instinct.
If we remember the wrongs committed to us by others, or that we have committed ourselves, we remember not to put ourselves in similar situations. We can prevent ourselves making stupid decisions or other people making stupid decisions or saying that stupid thing that probably didn’t help stem the spread of the rather nasty rumours.
On a grander, more altruistic scale, if we remember the wrongs committed in our society – Auschwitz, Rwanda, or closer to home the Stolen Generation – we can see the signs of social injustice and stop the cycle before it completes its revolution. But forgiveness is, as another infinitely superior saying goes, divine.
When I was 15, I went to Robben Island in South Africa, the place where political prisoners, Nelson Mandela being the most notable, were held during Apartheid. We were shown through the prison by a man named Glen. He had been held prisoner and brutally tortured for more than ten years for his efforts to stop Apartheid.
He said, “I had to let go of the anger in my heart and forgive the people who imprisoned me, because without forgiveness, how can we have unity? How can I have moved forward? But I will never forget what they did to me. And that is why I stay here and show people through the prison. So people will see this and prevent Apartheid from ever happening again.”
And so, I leave you with a slightly edited version of the saying, in the hope it will replace its predecessor. Simply: “Forgive”.
Ellen-Maree Elliot @ Girl With a Satchel