Lapsley, a well-known writer, being held captive in South Africa in the apartheid regime, said that the question is not one of forgetting but rather it is the problem of how we heal our memories:” How do we stop our memories from destroying us? How do we stop the powerful messages of emotional abuse? How do we stop the powerful discourse messages of the world? What does it mean to forgive those who have not confessed, those who have not changed their lives, those who think that they are not wrong, and those who continue with destructive, devastating patterns for years on end?”
The whole question of remembering past (and present) pain and forgiving the wrongdoer might be better phrased in this way: “In forgiving we do not forget; we remember in a different way. We cannot forget what has happened to us, to erase part of our memory is to erase part of our identity as persons. However, we can remember in a different way after we have experienced reconciliation and after we have extended forgiveness” (Lapsley 1997: 21, 23).
Reconciliation is many things; it is the work of God discovered in moments of victimization or vulnerability that enables us to locate our story in a larger narrative. The difficult memories of past and painful experiences of the present are transformed within God. Although we often think of reconciliation as overcoming alienation for the sake of returning to a previously known peaceable state, reconciliation needs to take us to new places. In addition to being a gift from God and a strategy for human living, reconciliation is also a spirituality that includes at least the following characteristics: embracing, contradictions, honouring the other, showing hospitality to strangers, and being surprised by grace.
Lapsley, M. 1997. My journey of reconciliation in South Africa – From fighter to healer. South Africa: New Theology Review.