There are wounds that we cannot forget. In certain tragic cases, the road to healing seems to walk more through the awareness of all that is hurtful than, in fact, through the act of forgetting.

We don't evacuate evil - it stays anyway - but we can't escape it to let it slowly sink into love and then transform. 

At times when the Old Testament portrays God's wrath, it is because He is suffering and because His love for Israel is wounded by the unfaithfulness of His people.

After all, is forgiving synonymous with forgetting?

Now, the most wonderful fact of the whole biblical historical aspect - it is the discovery of the prophets - lies in the fact that, out of love, God goes beyond his own wrath: "My people cling to their unfaithfulness. [...] My heart is moved within me, all my bowels tremble, but I will not give vent to the fierceness of my anger, [...] for I am God and not man [...]" (Hosea 11:7-9) . 

For those who forgive, forgiveness is a struggle against their own anger. The burning no longer leads to a violent reaction, but to an inner tear: sacrificing the expectation of justice in order to move toward the one who has sinned.

The prophet Isaiah goes on further to describe a mysterious character in the form of a suffering servant: "A man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, ... despised, we paid no attention to him. But it was for our sufferings that he endured, and for our pains that he was responsible. [... In his wounds we find healing" (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Believers can gain recognition in these lines of an anticipation of the life that was offered by Jesus. Jesus' patience with his adversaries, his passion in Jerusalem suggest that he didn't run away either from suffering or from the people who were trying to arrest him. 

Instead of finding protection from attack, he actually welcomed what came his way without foresight or bad intentions. If he was able to say on the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), it is that he went to the very end of the opening of pure feeling and consented to be wounded by the very hand of those he loved.

The Cross, in this sense, takes on an existential dimension that we all face, even those who don't believe: we only have true suffering for those we truly love. 

That my enemy should make me suffer is in the order of things, but how can I consent to suffer at the hands of my friend Psalms 55:13-15)? Every love relationship leaves an open door to vulnerability, that is, to the possibility of being hurt. Remembering this, not running away from this vulnerability, is already preparing for forgiveness.

Forgiving must never mean forgetting

As Pope Francis reminds us, "the confessional is not a laundry: as if you had a jacket or a dress washed, you put it in the washing machine and that's it! But sin is much more than a chore. Sin is a wound that must be healed, healed" .

"Forgiveness is not erasing with a magic wand. "Forgiveness is not forgetting, but it is knowing how to live together..."

Let's repeat it strongly, forgiving is not forgetting. It is not about trying to rebuild the relationship with the other person by forgetting what they have done. Remember so many faces of children who have been abused, physically, morally, sexually, that it would be foolish to ask to forget, and who are right to ask that justice be done. 

Forgiveness cannot be synonymous with impunity for the perpetrator, but must be associated with justice and memory, for to forgive does not mean to forget, but, and here again I quote Pope Francis, "to renounce the destructive force of evil and violence" .

Forgetting is impossible and can even be dangerous. I think of the words attributed to Goethe: "He who forgets his past is condemned to repeat it. We all have a duty to remember. Forgiveness must never, therefore, exempt the perpetrator from answering for his actions before human justice. It is never a matter of erasing them.

Forgiving is harder than forgetting.

So what is forgiveness? Forgiving is harder than forgetting.

It is, keeping in mind what has been done, to rebuild the relationship with the other by recognizing a future for him, not confining him to past conducts.

It is Jesus' "Go and sin no more" to the adulteress (Jn 8:11)

Forgiveness is, therefore, refusing to reduce the other's person to his or her past behavior alone. 

Only such a discourse, imbued with forgiveness, can allow the person to rebuild his self-esteem. This is why forgiveness is at the center of the educational relationship advocated by Don Bosco.