Forgiving Is Not Forgetting
Forgiving is not forgetting…. as I ponder what it means to forgive, I’m taken back to my childhood home. I’m the oldest of two girls, and my little younger sister was, well, a little sister! You know what I mean. That girl had a way of manipulating me into doing most of the chores. Really, she did. She knew that I didn’t want to get in trouble when our mom got home. Nobody wanted to see the wrath of Mama! So she would dawdle, doing her thing while I scrambled around to make sure our list was done and the house was spotless. Honestly, that made me furious! Her piddling and my not wanting to see the wrath of Mama caused lots of friction. Therefore, we fought–actually fought–many days. That was about 25 years ago. I’ve forgiven my little sister for all the times she manipulated me back then. But the thing is, I still remember. If we are honest, we all remember those things in our past that have angered us or hurt us. The old cliche “forgive and forget” is a lie. Forgiving ain’t forgetting!
So, what does it mean to forgive?
Webster says it this way: “To cease to feel resentment against: to pardon.”
Dictionary.com takes it further. “To grant pardon for or remission of; to give up all claim on account of; to grant pardon to; to cease to feel resentment against; to cancel an indebtedness or liability of.”
Forgiveness is deciding to or choosing to pardon, to cancel one’s debt towards you. Imagine for me if you will a desperate woman along with her special needs son in a terrible situation. She needs to get out of the situation she’s in–yesterday. In her desperation, she reaches out to you, asking for money so that she can buy a car that can take them far away from this situation. You have the money set aside, though you had plans for it. Yet something, or rather someone, reminds you that the thing you had the money set aside for has no value really. You know what you have to do. She has tears in her eyes as you tell her you’ll help. And she promises to repay her debt. Here’s where forgiveness comes in…. Forgiveness is setting the debt aside and going on with life. You know she will have a hard time paying you back, and honestly, you may never even see her again. But forgiveness? Lets it go. You tell her you aren’t worried about the money; you pardon her, cancel her debt. Then you choose to not dwell on it, choosing to–like our good, good Father–“remember it no more.”
Hebrews 8:12: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
What is forgiveness NOT?
Forgiving does not, however, mean that you must pretend or deny an offense against you. It doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning a deed. A little over two years ago, my husband confessed to me that he was addicted to pornography. I’m going to be honest and say that while eventually, I wanted to forgive him and move on, I simply didn’t know how. I knew I would never, ever forget his offense against me. And I didn’t know if I could let go and count him as innocent. I didn’t know if I could pardon him. See, I was fed the lie that in order to forgive, you have to forget. Bury the hatchet. Pretend it never happened. Ignore the problem and the hurt. If you pretend it didn’t happen and never talk about it, it just goes away, right? No, my friend. In order to forgive, to pardon, to give up all claim, you do have to have hard conversations seeking reconciliation. And then you have to choose to remember the sin no more.
Does that mean I never think about wrongs done to me?
Absolutely not! Our minds are such that they retain information and memories indefinitely. The truth is that sometimes those memories pop up out of the blue. I can’t control that, but I can control my reaction to them and whether or not I choose to let them go or dwell on them. We must choose–decide–to continually let it go, trust God that he’s doing a good thing through our hurts, and grow. (Check out this article by Family Life for more on this.) God doesn’t command us to forgive and pretend it never happened. Even He Himself doesn’t do that.
“It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25 HCSB)
He does, however, call us to forgive those who sin against us, just as He forgives those who sin against Him. [That would be us!]
Matthew 6:14 says it plainly, “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.” (HCSB)
If God, a Holy God, can forgive each of us in all of our sins, choosing to remember our sin no more, then surely we can forgive those who hurt us.
Don’t believe the lie that you can’t forgive because you can’t forget. That’s what that the enemy would have you believe. If he can convince you of that, he’ll keep you from ever forgiving and having the peace that can only come from letting go and letting God have control of your life. How have you extended forgiveness to others?