Forgive and Forget, You Say? Not Quite So Fast!

By Ann Ipock

One of the things that I hate about growing older is that you actually have to grow up. Anger is an emotion. Forgiveness is an action. So it would stand to reason quite simply that if someone makes you angry, you merely forgive and forget, right? Not necessarily. It’s really kind of satisfying in a sick, yet grandiose (and childish), way to be able to enjoy the smug, self-righteous indignation for at least a while. In other words, “I’m right. You’re wrong. Nanny nanny boo boo.” In my case – first, I let it all roll around in my little head a couple of minutes, then I project a sly smirk of the lips and a pensive tilt of the head. Then I get all mushy and Pollyanna-like and cave (or, try to).

Psychologists tell us that to grow up is to let go of petty thoughts, childish ideologies and immature character flaws. (Dang – no more fun, I guess!) Then again, I know lots of adults who don’t see it that way. Please don’t ask me to name names.

The truth is, I became a fan of the sitcom, My Name is Earl, in part because I liked the way Earl tried to right so many wrongs. But it’s his mannerisms (flighty, quirky and out of touch) that make the show so enjoyable – that, and Joy, a good old Southerner who grew up just 45 miles from my hometown. The show is kind of a Dumb and Dumber meets Billy Graham. Of course, it’s a comedy and that’s the point: Whatever Earl starts out to do each week usually backfires or causes even more trouble. But you’ve got to love him for at least trying. Poor Earl is a case of not only leaving well enough alone, but in fact, leaving well enough worse off. A lot worse off.

Still, this is the how Earl’s show has affected me: I’ve been thinking a lot about people I need to forgive, and I made a list. This is in no particular order. Not chronological, not alphabetical, not even psychological. It is what it is.

Mrs. Jackson: In seventh grade history class when you made me stay after school because Jane and I pulled out our shirttails, and you humiliated us in front of all the cool guys: I forgive you. Even though it didn’t make a pea diddly bit of difference, you were just doing your job (I guess). Or then again, I still don’t know when the War of 1812 was, so maybe it did scar me for life?

Mr. Woodward in Sunday school: When our class got so rowdy that you had to get back-up help from the main building, and you wouldn’t allow us to utter a word. Instead, we sat in stoic silence for the next thirty minutes staring straight ahead: I forgive you. Of course, most folks can see that that little incident did not ruin me for life. I am able to talk freely and nonstop as the situation calls for.

To the stranger who asked me when my baby was “due” when in fact, I’d given birth four months earlier to Katie: I believe your glasses were fogged up or you were just plain clueless – nevertheless, I’ve decided to let you slide. But next time, use your noggin’ woman: “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”

When that grouchy lady in Litchfield told me to move my car “or else” because it was in her way of walking (!) and that I was in a no park zone (was not!): I have decided to let you off the hook. Even though you shook your finger at me and bobbed your little gray head every which way. All that anger was just making me crazy every time I saw a road sign. Not worth the trouble. You’re marked off the bad list, too.

To the bundled up beach babe (in the dead of winter) who let her dog chase me near the ocean one cold October, and then laughed the whole time. Now that was downright rude, wouldn’t you say? And to make matters worse, she let her other four dogs circle me and sniff for some time before she finally called the pack off: You are forgiven.

To the publishing company that offered me a contract and then backed out. Now, I’ve had to work real hard at forgiving you, but as Irene Peter once said: “Ignorance is no excuse – it’s the real thing.” Perhaps it was your loss because I did survive and oh yeah, I even started my own publishing company. I probably should forgive you and thank you at the same time.

To the brokerage firm that didn’t offer me that job way back when because they said I didn’t pass the math test. Duh! No one ever said I was good at arithmetic. Case in point: 9 x 4 is not 32, I don’t care how many times you work it. Believe me, I found that out the hard way. I forgive you, Mr. Fancy Pants, because bigger and better things were coming my way.

And now I’ll play “Earl” and ask anyone out there to please just forgive me if I’ve done anything wrong to you. (This includes my Dearly Beloved Russell, though I’m sure he’d be hard pressed to find fault with moi in twenty-seven short, blissful years of marriage…right, honey?) To everyone else: Fair is fair and I think I’m mature enough now to simply say, “I’m sorry. Can we still be friends?”

About this writer

  • Ann Ipock Ann Ipock, the first Sasee hat recipient, is the author of the “Life is Short” humor trilogy. She currently writes for four publications and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband, Russell. www.annipock.com

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