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Never forgive, but do forget

William Rein

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Illustration by Miles Huffman

I never forgive (but do forget).

President Kennedy once said “forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” That’s entirely sensible — never forget who wronged you so you can avoid over-trusting or confiding in that person and facing another letdown.

I’m simply taking it a step further.

I can’t associate the act of a verbal apology with sincere regret, and even if I’m capable of making the sentimental connection, I can’t feel it or endorse it or accept it.

If someone did you wrong, it was for a specific and recognizable reason, a reason beyond moment and circumstance and embedded in your relation to them. They’d just as soon do it again without knowledge of the consequences.

I also believe everyone is inherently selfish and no human action is without self-serving motivation, which makes it relatively easy to stop caring when the entire population is personally invested. Ethics come after.

A counterargument might be that people change. Maturation is a significant factor, and identity is fluid, but the kernel of the human that messed with you never pops.

Choosing to not forgive is not actually a personal motto of mine. If anything, my motto has always been “when in doubt, whip it out.” Yet the lack of forgiveness has been ingrained in many of my actions over the years.

Instead of forgiving, I end up relinquishing caring. With the passage of time I reconcile any negative connotations and let the memory be buried beneath whatever more relevant or pleasant activities followed.

I went through an unpleasant falling out with an ex-girlfriend in my sophomore year of high school. Over the course of a couple years, we were placid again and able to hang out. The last time I saw her she bought alcohol for me. Two months later, she died.

I’m glad we replaced the sour communication with a more amicable scenario before her untimely passing. And although it’s hard to let go of past indiscretions, I had nothing but good will in my heart for her at the end.

Getting over her betrayal was minuscule to trying to get over her death. Although both strike at your core, only one leaves you shaken.

Even though I never forgive, it’s possible to learn to love again.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.

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Never forgive, but do forget