Forgive and Forget: An Impossible Truth

When our hurt is profound, especially if inflicted by someone significant in our life, it takes time to let go of our resentment. Forgiveness is a process. It can be long, drawn-out, and accomplished in fits and starts. We don’t often remember the specific time we forgave. We work at forgiving and suddenly realize we feel differently about the situation. Then we recognize that we have let the bitterness go. 

We can forgive and still feel moments of anger and sadness. Forgiveness and anger can live side by side. The deep wound we have experienced is a fact of our lives. We can relinquish the need to get even, but the consequences are still present. Lewis Smedes in Forgive and Forget says, “The dead stay dead; the wounded are often crippled still. The reality of evil and its damage to human beings is not magically undone. We can forgive, and it can still make us very mad.” 

Forgiveness does not mean we forget the hurt. It can be dangerous to forget about our hurtful experiences. It could put us in a position to be hurt again in the same or similar way. Suppose you burned your fingers on a hot iron. What would happen if you forgot the pain and how you got burned? Remembering the experience helps us protect against repeat wounding. We remember but in a different way. We remember, but we let go of the need for revenge.   

Nowhere does Scripture require us to have amnesia about our sins or sins committed against us. Focusing or forgetting a wrong might lead to denying or suppressing feelings about it, which is not the same as forgiveness.

Scripture does not say God forgets our sins. It states he will not remember them. What is the difference? To forget something is to have no ability to recall it. God is omniscient. He has not lost his memory of our transgressions. Instead, he promises not to bring them up and hold them against us. The same is true for us. When we forgive, we promise not to bring up the offense of the person and hold it against them. However, we do not forget. 

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1 KJV)

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