The Power of Forgetting

October 17, 2011

“Happiness? That’s nothing more than health and a poor memory.”
—Albert Schweitzer

A poor memory? I would have thought the opposite: a good memory to keep in mind the positive things that happen. Isn’t that what gratitude lists and such are all about? But after a little thought, I realize there are plenty of things we’d be wise to forget, such as:

Mistakes we’ve made. I know I need to work on this, because when I make a mistake, I have a tendency to replay it in my mind over and over, often blowing it out of proportion. Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes, even though I really don’t want to admit that I do. If necessary, apologize, and/or make things right, then move on. Cling to the philosophy, as the heroine in Anne of Green Gables did, that “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.”

Wrongs done to us. What good does it really do to dwell on them? Life isn’t fair. Some people are jerks. Other people make mistakes (see above) and hurt us, whether accidentally or on purpose. Let it go.

Past situations we wish were different. The ridiculous fight you had with your spouse. The time you didn’t make the varsity [insert sport here] team. The investment you made/didn’t make at the wrong/right time. The past is done…it’s passed. Time to move on.

As Barbara Ann Kipfer wrote in Field Guide to Happiness for Women (where I found the Albert Schweitzer quote), “The concept of forgetting the things that should be forgotten adds happiness to your life. But the flip side is knowing what not to forget.” Remember the good things: the love of your family and friends, the small details of today that give you joy, what you truly are grateful for. And, according to Kipfer, “Don’t forget that you are in charge of creating your own happiness.”

What do you want to forget? What do you want to remember?

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  1. Sweets, you don't have enough comment space for all the things I want to forget nor remember.....I think that's called selective memory.

    It's unfortunate that we use to remember the wrong things and forget the right things!

  2. This is nice and thought provoking entry, Kathy. You are right, there is power in forgetting and also in forgiving. Just as long as we don't continue to fall into the same hole again and again.

    Hope your week is happy!

    Kathy M.

  3. Laure--Hope you're using your selective memory to make your life happier!

  4. Kathy--Hopefully we can learn from our experiences before we let them go. Thanks for the good wishes--hope you have a great week, too!