When I was in the thick of my sorrow, I hated this flippant remark said to me by some… “Well you will just have to forgive and forget.”
My reaction was immediate and blunt. “I know the Bible says to forgive but show me where the Scripture says to forget?”
A good friend of mine who had been through the trial of adultery herself called me on this very remark, she brought Jeremiah 31:34 to my attention…
God said… “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
And Psalms 103:12 “ As far as the east is from the west, so far He removes our transgressions from us.”
to which I sarcastically added… “I’m not all powerful like God…and my mind is not capable of forgetting.”
“That may be true,” she responded kindly, “but the Scripture does encourage us to be like Jesus.”
Honestly, in that instant, I wanted to bob her. I remember immediately making up some excuse to hang up the phone. She was not my go-to person for a while.
As you can clearly see, I was struggling. I barely had the will to try and forgive much less embrace the impossibility of forgetting. I had much to learn and I thank God for being so gentle with me.
Today I have a different mindset. I would like to nut shell what I have learned the hard way, so that maybe you can be spared some of my mistakes.
I looked up the origin of the phrase “Forgive and Forget” and it is not a Biblical quote but traced back to theses sources:
Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616): "Let us forget and forgive injuries." "Don Quixote de la Mancha."
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) "Pray you now, forget and forgive." "King Lear"
However, I now believe that there is a miraculous phenomenon that combines the two elements of forgiving and forgetting when we choose to forgive as God has instructed.
There is no doubt we are to forgive. Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13, Luke 6:36-37, and many more Scriptures, but let's take it a step further. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love keeps no record of wrongs.
Hmmmm…this sounds strangely akin to forgetting to me.
I believe forgiveness recognizes fully the wrong done and yet with the help of God will choose to love and let go of that list of wrongs. We cannot do this on our own strength. Forgiveness is a spiritual discipline and an unearthly concept, yet the most powerful step toward healing a person can make.
As for the forgetting part…this is how I see it.
If we do not embrace forgiveness, bitterness will set in, and torment of the mind will be the reward. The hurt, pain, and emotion attached to the sin done will increase and grow. It will take on a life of it's own and obsess the mind for the rest of our life.
However, if we do choose to forgive the opposite happens, peace replaces turmoil along with another amazing God quality. NO,
we never forget, but if we allow forgiveness, the sin will no longer torment the mind. When the mind is not continually engaged upon that sin, a love, tenderness and kindness replaces the pain. This is aptly described in Ephesians 4:32 ”Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (ESV).”
When we choose to do it God’s way, the sin no longer rules our life, our thoughts, our hearts…love does.
In my mind, this is more powerful and sweeter than forgetting, because if I can remember the sin and yet still love that person…Wow, God has done a miracle.
Lastly, a good way to check if forgiveness has taken place is this…CAN YOU PRAY FOR THAT PERSON WHO HAS HARMED YOU? This is a good test for me. If anger replaces my ability to pray for that person, I know that the work of forgiveness still remains incomplete and I need to ask God for more help.
IF YOU STRUGGLE TO FORGIVE, BE ENCOURAGED…
God will not leave you to work this out on your own. He will gently guide your heart and give you strength until forgiveness is possible, because He knows that once forgiveness happens, the one set free …IS YOU!
*** A cautionary note. ***I am not talking about reconciliation of a relationship in this segment. To forgive does not mean to squelch God given emotion and bury negative feelings. Nor does it mean to step back into a dangerous situation, or be tight-lipped about abuse. The criteria to restore a relationship is something totally apart from the need to forgive. I am solely referring to the inner process of forgiveness whether that person who harmed you ever repents, changes, or deserves forgiveness.