The Myth of Forgiving and Forgetting
How many would admit that you sometimes still have a problem with forgiving, even though you know it’s the right thing to do?
How many would say you struggle with forgetting the offense that was committed against you, a member of your family or a friend?
I want us to look closely at this and see exactly what the scriptures have to say.
God’s forgiveness – I am guessing that most of us have heard the saying “forgive and forget.” Sadly, we have come to believe that forgetting is a part of forgiving.
This causes a real problem for many people because they feel fairly certain that they have taken Biblical steps to forgive someone, but since they can’t forget about the harm done to them, they must not have truly forgiven the person who harmed them.
While this may be the case sometimes, it is not ALWAYS true. For instance. if a person grew up being molested as a child, it is fairly unlikely they will EVER forget that happened. However, it does NOT mean they can’t forgive the person who did that.
One of the main keys to forgivness, is that once we forgive a person for an offense, we should never bring it up again to use against that person.
It should be in the past. Do we always do this? Not very often… But, that’s EXACTLY what God does.
Once we confess our sins and repent, God forgives. Our sin is “removed as far as the east is from the west,” “cast into the depths of the sea,” “put behind His back.” (Micah 7:19; Hebrews 10:17; Ezekiel 33:16; Isaiah 38:17)
God will NEVER bring it up against us anymore. He does not forget, just as we usually don’t forget, but forgiveness is not contingent on forgetting, it is about putting it in the past.
On the surface, it sounds as though there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with suggesting that we must forgive and forget when it comes to offenses committed against us.
As is true with many of the things we’ve picked up along the way, this one has a number of underlying implications that undermine and negate the truth that it contains.
The truth in this case is that when we know the forgiveness we have received from our Father through Christ, we will forgive those who have hurt us.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Will we forget the wrong done to us after we forgive? Most likely not.
It would be ridiculous to think that the Bible teaches us that we have to have amnesia regarding certain experiences in our lives. Forgiving somebody may mean a lot of things, but it certainly doesn’t mean that we literally forget what has happened. Not even God does that.
What does forgiving another person mean? A good working definition of forgiveness is this: Forgiveness is the intentional choice to release a person from all obligation they may have toward me as a result of any offense they have committed against me.
Notice that forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.
Some may wonder, “Isn’t forgiving somebody when I don’t really feel like it hypocritical?” Absolutely not!
We don’t determine our actions based on our feelings. Our faith in Christ governs our decisions, not how we feel.
It’s not hypocritical to rise above our emotions and act in a way that is consistent with our new nature in Christ! Feelings are incidental to the whole matter.
God is incapable of forgetting. The Bible states that He remembers them no more. He chooses not to remember them or bring them up against us ever again. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:19