You & Your Family

A time to remember, forget?

Sep 2013    

...some people only remember the mistakes, setbacks and disappointments of life. They gloss over any upside that life has to offer and choose instead to focus on and remember the bad days.

In her song “Big Yellow Taxi”, Joni Mitchell sings: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” Hazy days in June made me think about how much I have taken clear skies and clean air for granted. Weeks later, my friends are still commenting on how happy they are to put up with rain instead of having to breathe smog.

Yet human nature is such that in the next few weeks, most of us will have forgotten about the haze. And as the weeks turn into months, the haze may revisit us “unexpectedly”. Many, including myself, would be caught unprepared once again if it returns next year. The cycle will repeat itself; why we did not learn from it? Is it an affliction of the human condition that we seem not to learn from our mistakes?

On the other hand, some people only remember the mistakes, setbacks and disappointments of life. They gloss over any upside that life has to offer and choose instead to focus on and remember the bad days. Instead of learning from life’s setbacks and being better prepared, they choose not to take further risk of being disappointed and seen in German Nazism and Japanese militancy. History tells us how these ignored aggressions grew to engulf many other countries.

But it is not so easy to remember lessons in our personal lives. How often have we found ourselves making the same mistakes over and over again, thereby hurting those whose feelings matter the most to us? When our absent-mindedness takes the form of forgetting important dates

or food allergies of our spouses, such forgetfulness is annoying and can be understood as not being considerate of the other.

Some clients I counselled go to great lengths to not commit the same mistake too often. One husband who was so frustrated with himself for not remembering to greet his wife whenever he arrived home decided to tie a string round his wrist to remind himself to do so! His wife was not amused by his efforts but his intentions were appreciated.

Alas, I have found that men, myself included, are often more guilty of this forgetfulness. Women, if I were to risk making a generalised statement, are more likely to fault on remembering too many details. Unfortunately, many of these include errors and mistakes by their spouses. Perhaps, such women would do well to practise being more forgetful besides forgiving.

So how are we to manage this God-given ability of memory? Let us remember to count our blessings and to thank God for them. We can do this by setting aside days of remembrances on occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries.

First, thank God for answered prayers and the blessings He has sent our way. Next, ask that God will help us be grateful and open-minded even when things happen unexpectedly. Finally, we can also pray that we will be set free from past disappointments. In this way, we can make better use of our memory.

Picture by Flynt/

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.


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