Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

Those are the words of the late Lewis Smedes, a renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian, one of whose 15 books is intriguingly titled, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve. I like the title of another of his books even more because I think it might be about me. What it Takes to Live with Courage, Gratitude, & Integrity, or When Pretty Good Is as Good as You Can Be.

The trouble with some bad memories is that sometimes they are not our fault. On a good day most of us can forgive ourselves for something stupid that we did (again!).

But what about the days when somebody else did something bad to us… and even meant it? Do we have to forgive them in order to move?

To forgive can simply be taking the power away from something that can hurt us. The dab of ointment that takes away the sting doesn’t forgive the bee, but it takes away the pain. We don’t always forgive as a benefit to the forgiven, but simply for our own good.

To “forgive” the sting of an evil memory, sometimes we need the dab of soothing ointment in new and better memories.

This week the Jamestown Gazette’s contributing Cover Story writer, Heidi Woodard, introduces us to a wonderful new source of the soothing ointment of good memories and strong friendships being created for our homecoming U.S. War veterans.

Dwyer Chautauqua Making Connections – Veteran to Veteran” tells about a creative new initiative being mounted to give veterans, especially the men and women whose memories need a special healing, create new memories crafted of fun and camaraderie, warmth and understanding.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – better known as PTSD – is something made up of seemingly memories, home movies that just won’t stop – about harm and pain. Traumatic brain injury, a too-common event where bombs are exploding all around, is a cousin to PTSD and often a causative event. Both can be debilitating.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a deceptively simple description:

PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”

George “Big George” Foreman, two-time world heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist, is also an ordained minister, author, and entrepreneur. The heavy hands that have pummeled his head and body over the years – to say nothing of his own that have pummeled a few others even harder – might have felt like explosions to most of us, but with it all, he celebrates good memories.

Learning to enjoy today has two benefits: it gives me happiness right now, and it becomes a good memory later,” Big George once told a curious sportscaster who had asked him about his troubled youth and school dropout at 15.

The good news that Dwyer Chautauqua is announcing for our veterans this week in the Jamestown Gazette is that memory is a “healable” thing, and those who most need the healing are themselves the healers, creating good memories for themselves and each other… healing the sting without having to kill any more bees.

Sir James Matthew Barrie, the Scottish novelist and playwright best remembered today for creating Peter Pan, may have said it most simply… “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

Enjoy the read

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.