I Have to Remember to Forget

Don’t you sometimes wish that you could completely erase all the negative stuff in your memory and keep only the good stuff?

Don’t you sometimes wish that you could completely erase all the negative stuff in your memory and keep only the good stuff? I sometimes wonder what crazy force controls my memory. I seem to forget so much of the good and remember far too much of the bad.

In the late 1980s, I studied Journalism for one year at the University of King’s College in Halifax. I lived in the school residence and Bert was my roommate. He was the quintessential nerd — tall, uncoordinated, fidgety — and, you guessed it, he wore glasses. Needless to say, the other students tormented Bert without mercy. Once, I overheard him talking to his parents on the phone. He was nearly crying and said that he just couldn’t take it anymore. By God’s grace, he survived the school year.

After we graduated, Bert kept in touch with me. Years later, he and his Japanese wife visited my wife and me in Thunder Bay. Over dinner, I kidded Bert about how much he was picked on during our college days. “No, that never happened,” he said with a straight face. “Come on, Bert, you know it happened,” I said. “No, people were nice to me,” he insisted.

Because I’ve known him for so long, I’m fairly certain that Bert really didn’t remember being picked on. Rather than torment himself by storing and replaying painful memories, he simply “deleted” them.

I wish I had that kind of power over my memory. I wasn’t picked on very much in my life, but I tend to remember each insult and humiliating moment, and I find it hard to forgive those who were responsible. Isn’t bad enough to experience painful episodes once?

We also usually never forget early sexual experiences. I read article about a married man who had homosexual experiences when we was teenager. Although, he has been heterosexual ever since, those memories kept coming back and disturbing him. Those who were sexually abused as children or as teenagers usually have a real struggle in this regard. Of course, memories of immoral sexual experiences are usually very pleasurable. This can also pose a problem for those who seek to become holy.

In a broader context, psychologists tell us that bad memories from our early childhood, that may be largely unconscious, can negatively affect us for the rest of our lives.

When bad memories get me down, I try to think about the future that Jesus has promised me. What difference will all that I have suffered on earth make in heaven if, by God’s mercy, I should go there? The memory of my life on earth, so filled with pain and sorrow, would only make eternal life more joyful!

“Do not seek revenge, my children, and do not repay evil for evil. For the eternal sun will rise on that great day and melt the frozen and bitter memories of your heart. On that eternal day, you will rise to meet your beloved Spouse among the light and airy clouds. You will not be tempted to hate those you caused you pain on earth. You will only love because you will be one with the eternal Love.”

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