The Forgetting: Learning to Forgive…and Forget

by Tara Johnson

“I’ll forgive but I can’t forget.” forgive funny

Have you heard this phrase before? Me too. Maybe you’ve thought it or even spoken it on occasion. It’s an understandable sentiment because, let’s face it, forgiveness is sometimes extremely difficult. The deeper the hurt, the more grievous the wound, the more jagged the scar, the harder forgiveness becomes.

There are three undeniable ways to feel shackled, stuck and unhappy in your walk with God: 1) believe Satan’s lies, 2) embrace the very things Jesus died to free you from, and 3) refuse to forgive.

unforgiveness tied

Unforgiveness in the Bible carries the idea of tying someone to your back and refusing to cut them free. I confess, there are a few people I wouldn’t mind tying up until they learn their lesson but tying them to my own back? No way! If you tie someone to your back and have to move around, who is doing all the work…the person tied up or the one with an ornery person strapped to their backside?

Put another way, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the person who wronged you to die. It only affects those who willingly drink it.

When I consider God’s mind-blowing capacity to forgive, I’m often guilty of using my ‘humanness’ to justify hanging on to the old ‘forgive but don’t forget’ mentality.

“I [God], even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” ~Isaiah 43:25  love keeps no record

God is God. He can forgive and remember it no more. But what about wavering, flip-flopping humans? It seems like an impossible task for someone as broken as myself.

Just this past week, I was mulling over an incident with someone who hurt me deeply.

To be honest, I was weary of the cold, dark feeling hovering around me. I was tired of replaying the incident over and over again. I just wanted peace.

“Father, I know through You I can forgive this person. What they have done to me is no worse than all the ways I’ve wronged You and You continue to love and forgive me. I can cut these choking ropes loose but there’s something I don’t understand. You are God and can totally forget my old sins when I turn to you and seek your forgiveness but I’m only human. How do I learn to ‘forget’?”

At that moment, His Spirit whispered gently to my heart, His tender voice a nudge of mercy. “You want to forget how they have wronged you? Ask me to help you.”

With a dawning awareness, I realized I’ve often asked God for His help in forgiving someone but I’ve never once asked Him to help me forget—forget the crushing words, the harsh stabs of anger or the gaping wound left behind.

When I pass someone who has hurt me, I don’t want to just forgive them. I want to forget the pain stirred by their presence and see them as a person Jesus loves, someone He died to free. I don’t want to be so blinded by past mistakes that it distorts my view of their heart in the future…hearts that are needy, messy, hurting. Just like mine. forgive and forget

I don’t want past pain to taint future joys.

I’m discovering there is a great freedom in forgetting.

Forgetting is a choice to turn to God instead of mulling over the hurt. It’s a choice to grasp those things that true, lovely and kind instead of wallowing in pain that only reopens the old scars. It’s freedom. Peace.

Struggling with forgetting today? Here is a prayer for you to offer up to the Healer.

Heavenly Father,

I come before You today thanking You for your forgiveness. You have promised that when I come to You with my heart rent and broken, You will hear my cry for deliverance.

Lord, You know how ______________ has hurt me. You hear every word and see every action. You discern the thoughts and intents of all hearts. Help me forgive them just as You have forgiven me. Search the motives of my heart. Reveal to me if there is any pride or fear lurking inside and cleanse it from me.

Help me not just to forgive but to forget the sting of pain. I want to learn what You would have me know but I don’t want remnants of bitterness, hurt or anger to linger. Help me to love this person and see them as You love them. Give me grace and mercy in the forgetting.

May I cling to nothing more tightly than I cling to You. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, for Your honor, glory and Your Great Name…


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