Maybe you’ve always heard, “Forgive and forget.” But what do you do when it’s impossible to forget? A certain song, smell, or a curse blurted in anger, and, at lightning speed, our mind remembers. Even when the memory laid dormant for several years.
I woke up to sheer panic, my bed shaking. When I opened my eyes, the mirror on the wall wildly swung back and forth. As soon as I caught my breath, I let out a terrified scream. My parents couldn’t come to me—they were rushing to secure the cupboards so all the dishes wouldn’t fall out. The early-morning San Fernando earthquake became a permanent memory in my six-year-old brain.
We moved from California the next year, and it wasn’t until decades later, in Georgia, when I felt the earth tremor once again. My husband was in the bathroom shaving and didn’t even feel it. Newscasters joked about how most people didn’t even know we’d had an earthquake. I knew. Some things you never forget.
Everyone hasn’t gone through a natural disaster, but everyone will experience fear and trauma. Often, people in their life cause their pain. Our emotions are an intricate part of who we are. Some memories, especially traumatic ones, refuse to leave. We may not be able to forget a painful memory, but we can control whether or not we will dwell on it.
God has never asked me to deny, or “forget,” hard situations of my past. Instead, He calls me to walk in truth and then asks, “Now how are you going to handle it?” and “Am I enough?”
When Christ died a cruel death for our sin, He never denied our offenses against Him. He forgave us because we couldn’t save ourselves. I can’t be like Christ and save anyone, but I can forgive them.When Christ died a cruel death for our sin, He never denied our offenses against Him. He forgave us because we couldn’t save ourselves. I can’t be like Christ and save anyone, but I can forgive them. Click To Tweet
In the Bible, a disciple asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV).
When I think about someone who wronged me, I’m reminded of a parable Jesus told of a man who owed a king a huge debt he could never repay (Matthew 18:23-35). The man begged the king for mercy, and the king forgave the debt. However, the forgiven man went to another who owed him a small amount of money and insisted on immediate payment.
This second debtor begged for more time to pay, but the forgiven man’s heart was hard, and he refused to give more time to pay the debt.
Word got back to the king. “Hey King, remember that guy’s big debt you forgave? Well, now he wants a man thrown in jail for a much smaller amount of money owed.” (Paraphrased.)
Outraged at the man’s lack of mercy, the king had him brought back to court and thrown into jail.
Chills go down my spine as I recall this story, for I remember my reluctance sometimes to forgive others. While I don’t need to forget what happened, God gives me mercy in abundance, and I should offer the same to others—even those who wronged me horribly.
Therefore, I have to make a conscience choice to forgive. Sometimes, over and over. When situations trigger a memory, the quicker I forgive and move on, the better. Moving on doesn’t mean I forget every wrong endured. If I did, I might stay in an unhealthy relationship or miss out on a lot of good lessons. But I do forgive.
Think about it. If we really were made to forget every wrong done to us, we’d keep going back for more abuses or continue in poor judgement. We wouldn’t be able to walk in truth.
We need to consider other’s deeds with wisdom and truth. If your friend is not responsible with their finances, you don’t lend them money. If your teen is known to take drugs, you don’t lend him or her your car. The circumstances can range from mild to tragic. With truth, understanding, and love, we can honor people and still set appropriate boundaries based on their character.
When I have bitter feelings toward someone, I know I’m resistant to forgiveness. That’s when focusing on the cross helps.When I have bitter feelings toward someone, I know I’m resistant to forgiveness. That’s when focusing on the cross helps. Click To Tweet
Christ forgives me not because I’ve changed or paid Him back for my wrong, but because of His love for me. I need to love others in the same way.
God understands how hard it is to forgive some offenses over and over. That’s okay—just keep your eyes on Jesus, the One who forgives all the sins of the world, and know you are cared for. He sees you and loves you deeply.God understands how hard it is to forgive some offenses over and over. That’s okay—just keep your eyes on Jesus, the One who forgives all the sins of the world, and know you are cared for. He sees you and loves you deeply. Click To Tweet
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2 thoughts on “Forgive and Forget?”
Wise words, Jennifer! Forgiving allows us to remember and still move on. It frees us from living in fear, despair, bitterness, or denial.