Don’t Be Fooled, Feed Your Flies Honey And Forgive Your Enemies

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”  ~Oscar Wilde

That quote always makes me smile. Because it’s true. Enemies wish you ill will. They want bad things to happen to you. They despise you from afar. They speak about you behind your back. They attempt to sabotage your every turn.

Forgiveness stops them in their tracks. Confuses them. Throws them off their game.

“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” – English Idiom

I feel I’m pretty good at forgiveness. Or forgetfulness, I can’t remember. I have a little personality quirk that helps me to forget wrong doing fairly quickly. On more than one occasion I’ve mused about a person from the past and my husband will say to me, “What about the time she stole your lesson plan idea, got complimented on it and called it her own?” or “You’re talking about the same administrator that didn’t have your back when the parent was a wealthy board member?”

It’s OK. It’s all good. I’ve moved on.

Where I struggle is between forgiveness and allowing the person to continue to drag you down.

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”  – English Idiom

Is there a line between protecting yourself and forgiveness? Does forgiveness open the door for enemies to hurt you again?

I toddle on this line. I have people in my life, family members even, that I must protect myself from. Their negativity, their unkind words, their judgement and cruelty. I’m a forgiving person but if I distance myself, if I avoid contact – it is seen as an unforgiving move, as resentment and anger.

But I’m just protecting myself. I refuse to be pulled down.


Filed under How We Roll, Lessons Learned

25 responses to “Don’t Be Fooled, Feed Your Flies Honey And Forgive Your Enemies

  1. How to simultaneously forgive and protect? I haven’t a clue. But there is a line, however fine and fleeting, between these things and I think if we squint hard enough, we can see it.

    I think the question of forgiveness is endlessly interesting. I hope one day to write an entire novel about forgiveness.

  2. I think it’s possible to forgive but not forget, so you can forgive someone for hurting you, but still protect yourself from getting hurt by them again.

  3. I know you are not religious, but C.S. Lewis explained this in a great way. He said that forgiveness is about loving our enemies as ourselves. “Loving my enemies does not mean thinking them nice…we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves–to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may…be cured…That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.”

    In other words, you don’t have to forget or pretend something didn’t happen to forgive, you don’t have to be close and buddy-buddy, either. You just must let go of the spite and not wish them extra harm, but hope they learn from their mistakes some day.

    Still not easy, but an interesting perspective.

  4. Just because I’ve forgiven my sister that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let her back into my life to hurt my children or myself ever again. I totally understand where you’re coming from.

  5. angelcel

    “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names.” ~ John F. Kennedy
    Wise man, as far as I’m concerned. Sure I’ll forgive, but I certainly won’t forget.

  6. Oooh, I love that JFK quote. You can forgive but not allow a toxic person back in your life. That’s called looking out for yourself and learning from experience.

  7. Steven Harris

    I’m always able to forgive, given enough time to deal with my own responses to things. But I will never forget. My brain just doesn’t seem to work that way.

  8. What timing! I just had an Oprah-level A-ha moment yesterday when I read that holding a grudge only does damage to you and has no effect on the person you’re holding it against.

    As a first-degree grudge holder, I was grateful for that bit of wisdom – and for yours today.

    Thanks, Jane!

  9. Protecting yourself is akin to forgiving yourself. You deserve to not be hurt so you are doing what you need to do.

  10. I agree, Jane, it’s so hard to forgive…mostly because it does make you feel vulnerable. thought-provoking post as usual! 😉

  11. I was talking about this with my friend whose husband had left her when her kids were two and five months and moved in with the other woman and generally behaved in the most unclassy manner possible. She said when you look at the actual definition of forgiveness, it does require the other party to think they’ve done something wrong and want forgiveness — which her husband didn’t. So there’s letting go of your anger and hatred and feelings that harm you more than anyone, and then there’s forgiveness, which I think the other party might have to be involved in. I’m wildly inconsistent — sometimes I can let big things go and hold a ridiculous grudge over petty stuff. I’m trying to get better.

  12. unabridgedgirl

    I like to think that I am a pretty forgiving person, but I don’t think forgiving necessarily means always forgetting. If you forgive someone, you aren’t going to hold what they’ve done to hurt you against them, but – – for example’s sake – – say that something was demolishing your brand new car from reckless driving…are you going to forget that and let them drive your new car? Probably not.

    I don’t know. It’s a great post. One that gives me a lot of thought.

  13. Forgiveness is hard, but it is more for our own benefit to do so than for the people we forgive. In order to move forward in your life you must forgive and let go of the past, but forgive does not mean forget.

  14. Forgiveness, forgetfulness, putting up protective barriers … they’re all forms of self-preservation, I think, which is essential for happiness for us and our families. We do what we have to do for us, sometimes with honey and sometimes with vinegar. But mostly honey. =>

  15. I think forgiveness is not the same as allowing someone to continually walk all over you. I like the phrase, forgive and protect more than forgive and forget. Forgiveness is an act of grace towards another. Very hard to do since we all want our pound of flesh when someone wrongs us. I think Charlotte’s excerpt from CS Lewis sums it up the best.

  16. My favorite quote is definitely the first one. Forgiving others can be such a hard thing to do, but it can also be one of the most rewarding.

    Plus, Wilde’s twist on the sentiment is just down right entertaining!

  17. Great minds! Lately I have been appreciating this quote: Holding a grudge is like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die. (Ok, I am not as nice as you are… LOL) But it has the same spirit.

  18. The definition you’ve provided for “enemies” is an interesting one to me — they wish you ill will and want bad things to happen to you. I’m curious if the people in your life you mentioned are enemies of this sort or if some of them say unkind things because they think they’re doing you a favor telling you what’s “wrong” so you can fix it (my parents are great at saying these things). What do you do with the people who don’t wish you ill will but are still harmful to you?

  19. ck

    I’m with you 100%. I can forgive and I can definitely forget (sometimes on purpose, other times because I just forget a lot), but the hard part is cutting people off. Which for me, is sometimes most important. It’s not healthy to stay angry, nor is it healthy to continue allowing other people to hurt you. It’s a rough spot. But I think protecting yourself is part of forgiving, because often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves, even when we haven’t done anything wrong.

  20. I find it easy to forgive others–especially those close. I think I win in the end though, since I screw-up so much more and need the extra forgiveness–as compared to the amount I give.

  21. I am JUST like you. Something in me lets me forget and move on. I don’t think I really forgive because I don’t consciously say, “Oh, it’s fine what they did to me… I’ve forgiven them.” My wounds just heal and it’s easier for me to put it behind me. My husband thinks I do a poor job of protecting myself and I set myself up to get hurt over and over. I just don’t ever see myself as getting hurt, just annoyed and annoyance I’m able to brush off of me.

    But I do think this part of me makes it easy for people to take advantage of me and now that I read this great post, I see maybe I should not be so quick to forgive.

  22. Penny

    I don’t think we’re required to forgive. But we do need to come to terms with what’s happened so we can move on. Some might call that a form of forgiveness, of course.

  23. You’d think if I didn’t have something to offer I wouldn’t comment. But, here I am, commenting. I haven’t been over here much, but I really have missed your witty approach to life! I just “caught up” on your posts and laughed myself silly. Keep at it, “Jane.” I like your silly and your serious.

  24. I could really relate to this post. I literally just had this very conversation with a friend of mine on the phone today! I don’t think the answer is black and white. So many factors to take into consideration.. who is the person..what have they done? Did they mean to do it? Do they continually do it? For me, a good rule of thumb is that if a person brings me more sadness and stress than happiness and smiles, then they can take a hike! If they aren’t a positive influence in my life at least MOST of the time, then they don’t need to be in it. Then I move forward, without holding grudges about it.. after all, holding grudges, or hate in your heart doesn’t really hurt them, it only hurts you… and that’s my 2 cents. 🙂 🙂

  25. It’s hard; I’m in the same position. I stay away, keep my distance so I don’t get sucked into the “crazy”, and I’m vilified. I also don’t want to be dragged down. At this point, vilified is better than crazy and unhappy. 😉

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