I am asked almost every week of my life this one question. “How do you forgive and forget?”
To which I always respond, “That’s easy to answer. You don’t.”
The greatest misconception among Christians regarding forgiveness is the mistaken idea that somehow, to truly forgive someone for something that has been done against us in the past, we must forget all about it. Otherwise, we are told that we have not truly forgiven.
Forgiveness does not involve lapsing into some spiritual state of amnesia. The reason most people struggle with forgiveness and hold on to the past with such fierceness is the simple fact we have received much misinformation within the church regarding what true forgiveness really involves.
First, let me state emphatically that forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting. It has everything however, to do with remembering.
You might be asking yourself right about now, “What in the world is he talking about? How does remembering the offense of the one who has harmed me so deeply, link with true forgiveness?”
The best analogy to true forgiveness I can give you is this.
Forgiveness is a dry bridge that God has built above the raging waters of hatred and unforgiveness that once had you drowning. That bridge is a place of safety above the waters that once held you captive. You can still see the waters below, except now….the bridge of forgiveness places you above the situation of your past unforgiveness.
Forgive and remember… simply means that we are to “ forgive and remember”, how God has forgiven us for the things we have done, and most likely still do. It is so much easier to forgive from a place of understanding than from a place of condemnation. If we pause to remember the many things we have been forgiven of through God’s great mercy, it is easier to forgive the transgressions of those who have hurt us so deeply.
You must also have the ability to remember what you have forgiven, and what you have been forgiven, to be of assistance to others who are struggling with their own inability to forgive unspeakable circumstances. If your memory were suddenly wiped away in the moment you extend forgiveness, how would this profit others to find freedom from their own struggles with the same?
The truth of the matter is that often times, the forgetting part that people encourage us to undertake is nothing more than the classic, “Sweep it under the rug”, theology that most in the church have lived and taught for decades. People are encouraged to hide behind their well crafted masks and live under the grand illusion that, “Out of sight, out of mind”, is the way to forgiveness.
Unfortunately, the problem only grows worse. These people become bitter and develop a clear and present inability to relate well to others. They are often viewed as troublemakers, when all they really are is someone who has never truly offered forgiveness, either to the one who has hurt them, or most importantly…to themselves.
Along with the question about how can we forgive and forget, I also get the comments from people regarding how they just don’t “feel” forgiveness. They have prayed and waited for the feeling to arrive, to only be disappointed when that moment doesn’t come.
Forgiveness, like love…is a choice. We choose to forgive. If you are waiting until you feel like forgiving someone, especially those who have hurt you deeply, you’ll be waiting until Hell freezes over. The feeling will most likely never come.
In the same regard, you will hear many divorced people explain that they divorced because they eventually fell out of love with the person they once loved so deeply. This, is a misconception and outright lie from the enemy to promote divorce.
We don’t “fall out of love”, any more than we, “fall into it.” We choose to love someone. Love is a commitment. It is a vow, and a promise to remain with someone and choose to love them through the good times and the bad. Through sickness, and in health, until death do us part…we pledge to love the person we pledge our love to. Unfortunately, in today’s society, a vow is nothing more than a series of words spoken with a hidden addendum tucked away safely in our back pocket, just in case we ever need it.
Forgiveness is a choice. We don’t offer forgiveness because we feel like it. We offer forgiveness because God has clearly stated that we must forgive to be forgiven. (CHAPTER AND VERSE)
If we refuse to forgive, we sentence ourselves to the punishment of resentment, anger, bitterness and strife, from which God so desperately wants to free us. Unforgiveness is nothing less than a prison with unseen bars that holds us captive. In the realm of our warfare against principalities and powers and rulers of darkness in high places, we are not the only ones held captive by our refusal to forgive. Sadly, the person we refuse to forgive is unknowingly held under the same bondage.
God is a great and honorable father. He is truly the example for all fathers to live by. As earthly fathers, we are always teaching our children by word and example, and then stepping aside to give them the opportunity to make choices that shape their own individual destiny.
God commands us to forgive, knowing full well that the feeling to do so is absent. God is teaching us to walk by the faith of His instruction, rather than the evidence of our feeling. What person would argue with doing what they feel like doing?
I had a friend tell me once that he would stop his three pack a day cigarette habit after God took the desire away from him. He said he had prayed repeatedly for the desire to leave him, and so far it had not. He took this to mean that God was obviously fine and dandy with his nasty habit.
By that logic, we are all nothing more than robots to the New Age God of “Feel Good.”
You know the scenario. “If it feels good, do it”
Well, we’ve been living by that old philosophy since the time of Adam and Eve. I am now prompted to ask the obvious question, “How’s that been working for us lately?” Not so good.
Everyone will do automatically what they feel like doing. If they feel like praying, they pray. If they feel like eating, they eat. If someone feels like sleeping, he goes to bed. The list is unending. The mindset, as it applies to anything God has asked us to do, is stupid. You don’t really have to be a college graduate to figure out that people never have a problem doing what they feel like doing.
Just as a good father instructs his children on what is good for them and what to avoid that will be detrimental, God tells us what we should do because he knows best how to bring true freedom to our heart and soul. After all, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He has already walked where He is asking us to walk. He knows exactly what lies beyond the next curve in the road. Most days we don’t have the good sense to understand what is right in front of us, much less, predict the future outcome of our actions.
There is a lot of wisdom in “Trust and Obey”.
The doorway called, “Forgiveness”, is just ahead. Just inside the door, as you stand in the center of the room called, “Freedom”, you will find the Holy Spirit waiting to bestow upon you the feeling you have been waiting for to lead you to the doorway of forgiveness.
Now you know that turning the knob on the door comes first. The feeling will soon follow.