Years ago, I worked with a woman who complained over and over again how her “evil aunt” ruined her life. It turned out that this evil aunt had told her when she was growing up that she was fat and ugly and would never, ever find a man to love her. She also said that this would also hold her back from being successful in finding a good job.
The good news is that this woman defied all odds and the evil aunt’s prediction. Not only did she have one one husband, but two! She also started three businesses that were very successful, and, thanks to her hard work and determination, she had everything she had ever dreamed of and more.
The bad news is that she never forgave or forgot what her aunt said to her. It has made her bitter and sarcastic, and nothing seems to please or delight her. She can’t reach full happiness for all she has achieved in life because she still can’t let the evil aunt’s words go.
This is what I call the “bag of dead puppies” syndrome: “Oh, I can’t have a real relationship because of (holds up one dead puppy, who represents the “evil aunt”),” or “I can’t really enjoy myself because of (holds up another dead puppy, who represents the aunt’s predictions for her), and so it goes.
It’s as if the resentment and anger became more important than actually getting over what her aunt said. When it comes to “forgive and forget,” it’s the forgetting part that’s hard. But forgiveness without forgetting isn’t real forgiveness. When we can’t forgive, we can’t forget and we can’t move forward.
Too many times I’ve heard ‘well, I’ll forgive her, but I will never forget what she did/said.’ Doing this only makes the situation worse, and we never quite heal. That leftover resentment and hurt just poisons our lives. And who suffers from that? Not the person who said or did whatever; we suffer.
Forgiving and not forgetting is just like the saying: “staying angry at someone is like taking poison and hoping that the other person will die from it.” They won’t, but we will. When we can’t forgive, it corrodes our hearts and minds. That constant resentment will show in our faces, our attitudes, our actions and our thoughts.
Here’s a simple technique I have used for years to rid myself of my own bag of dead puppies: the Flush-O-Gram. Anyone can do it, and it’s quite effective. Here’s how:
Write the name of the person who has hurt you on as many sheets of toilet paper as it takes. (Yep, that’s right—I said toilet paper.) Get it all out on paper; don’t hold back. When you are finished, throw it into the toilet and flush it away. Now if you are really angry, you can up the ante by first doing your business on the paper before flushing.
I know how funny this sounds, but it’s surprisingly effective. Each time you start to get angry or sad about something someone said or did to you, go right back into the bathroom and send them another Flush-O-Gram.
The added bonus is that it will also make you laugh.