When Is Remembering Important? And When Is It Not?

I’ve written quite a bit about the various kinds of pain we suffer and the value we get from those experiences.  I’d like to now turn our attention to forgiveness.

Tomorrow is 9/11.  Talk about a wound!  It has been 16 years since the attack on the USA by terrorists, but many of us remember it as if it were yesterday.

Newpaper headlines and Facebook posts urge us to “Never Forget.” But under what circumstances is this healthy and right, and under what conditions is it unhealthy and wrong?

Insights from a 12-year-old Chinese Kid

I teach English to Chinese students each day.  My students range from 3 years old to 15 years old.  One of my 12-year-old students is a real challenge to me, not in terms of discipline or behavior, but in terms of intelligence.  I have to stay on my toes in my classes with him, because he sometimes asks me questions about American culture that I’m in no way prepared to answer; quite often things I’ve never thought about before.

He and I have discovered a number of things in common, but one of those is our admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr.  Frank loves to talk about him and he’s fascinated by the struggle the African-Americans have had to find racial equality and equity.

One day, when we were learning about Kwanzaa, we were talking about the value of remembering what you’ve suffered.  I’m not sure how much Frank has suffered in his 12 years, but I heard an incredible depth in his thoughts about this topic. He mentioned that remembering painful experiences could make you hateful and want to hurt others, or it can make you compassionate and want to help others. He said that you have a choice which you will choose. If you choose compassion you will “stand tall” (his words). Amazing for a 12-year-old!

When, What and How to Remember

As we remember 9/11 (and our own personal wounds), it’s important to look at why we should “never forget”.  I wrote about this not too long ago in my blog post, Why You Need to Remember Your Suffering.  You can click on that title (it should be in blue) and therefore, I don’t need to repeat any of what I said there.

There definitely are reasons why we should never forget things like 9/11.  There are also reason which are unhealthy.  It’s important to examine what our reasons are — not just so we can be “right,” but because it’s extremely unhealthy to remember things for the wrong reasons.

For example, if preserving the memory leads to a position of compassion, wisdom, appropriate caution … those are really good reasons.  However, if calling those things to mind results in being held captive to fear, bitterness, anger … that’s when it’s unhealthy.

Pastor Dave Johnson preached a sermon several years ago, which I have listened to over and over.  It was one of those paradigm shifts for me.  In it, he pointed out that when we allow bitterness, envy, anger (or really any sin) any place at all in our lives, it will take root and grow until there isn’t room for anything else.  Wow.  Them’s powerful words.  But looking around myself and looking at myself, I find them to be true.  (Click on the picture above to link to the sermon mp3.)

Isaiah Cadre Discussion/Journaling Questions:
1. What is something negative you’ve been through which was traumatic or otherwise important to you?
2. How does remembering that affect you?  What are the emotions and actions that come forth from those memories?
3. Are those emotions and actions that you want to nurture in your life?  Why or why not?
4. What do you need to change in order to do something positive with the memories?  Or if you are already using the memories positively, how can you use that to serve someone else?


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This is really great and so insightful for a 12 year old! Your last paragraph, especially, really is food for thought and the Discussion/Journaling questions can help me in dealing with guilt associated with my thoughts and of the past, too. This is what I needed at this time- thank you for writing this article!