Life is full of misfortunes.
(Mario Puzo, in the Godfather)
The above lines in The Godfather are meant as taunts, not to be misunderstood as words of wisdom. A common man is being mocked for exploring the options of revenge and is being asked to accept his bad luck, put on a grin and attend to life’s business. If you are weak and powerless, let it go. If you do not have powerful ‘friends’, accept your miserable fate. Absolve thy tormentors of their transgressions. Be Christ, be Gandhi. As if they did the Romans and the British huge favours by forgiving their sins!
Forgiving is quite distinct from forgetting. It is always a decision – of the weak if circumstances are similar as before, and of the magnanimous if the victim has become much more capable, powerful or successful than his tormentor. There are points for being generous and forgiving if you do so from a position of strength. It is a good tactical move to further your influence.
But the waters of forgetting are quite choppy.
Good deeds done to you are instantly forgotten. One doesn’t want to remain in gratitude. It burdens your soul. Not only are blessings best not counted, but it is quite all right to not recall them. Forgetting the favours bestowed upon you is an involuntary process. It just happens. Try as you might, you just don’t seem to remember when anyone was kind to you, or took pity.
One does not forget slights and shame. Disrespect and disfavour follow one to his grave. Even the death of the perpetrator does not destroy the karma of his bad deed. Which is why feuds and enmities run through generations! Damned lies, treacheries, stark images, blood, gore, heartbreaks, swindles, thefts, backstabbings can never be wished away. Try as one might to let go of her insulting remarks, they shall get reinforced with increased intensity, new meanings and engender more misery. It is simply not possible to get over a public insult or embarrassment. The face of someone who cheated you shall forever remain etched. If you try to flush them out of your memories or consciousness, they would chase you with increased vigour. ‘Choosing’ to forget does not mean much since you did not choose to be swindled, robbed, dumped, beaten, humiliated or embarrassed in the first place. Once these moments have occured, you carry the package forever.
If one were capable of burying his misfortunes, catharsis would not have warranted expression. Or not craved for vengeance to get over it. Demons once awakened would not rest till they are offered blood. You cannot wish them away. But acknowledgement of grievances necessitates revenge, which can have adverse, unintended consequences. Progress might require you to adjust and make compromises. Survival instinct might call for strategic stand-down. These are just tactical manoeuvres. Even if you claim to have laid matters to rest and buried the hatchet for pretence’s or self-preservation’s sake, it shall never be over unless reparations have been sought and won.
This realization of the futility of being forgiving and the impossibility of forgetting must lead us to begin preparations for seeking redressal, which can include revenge or apology. Anything less might advertise your vulnerability in the eyes of predators.