Wounds leave scars. And just looking at the scars can bring back the pain that caused them. Unexpected triggers can blindside us with an intense reliving of it.

I’d like to forget and always keep my gaze averted from my scars. But should I?

God says forgive, release to Him the “enemy” who wounded you. But forget?

Making ourselves “forget” may not be biblical or healthy at all.

Didn’t some “re-griefs” recently blindside me just because I’d put the hurts, the bone-deep scars, in forget mode? In other words, buried? Burying past hurts may be something we should be careful not to do.

Not that we dwell on negatives, or harbor grudges, or cast ourselves perpetually in the victim role, keep picking at scabs. Or keep rehashing someone else’s wrong to slander them or act as high judge or feel superior or refuse to forgive. None of that is biblical.

But I looked up “forget” in an exhaustive concordance. And nowhere did I find any Bible command or instruction to forget a hurt or offense!

The closest thing that could be (mis?)construed that way is Paul’s saying, “Forgetting what is behind…” (Phil 3:13). But there he’s talking about leaving his entire old life of legalism, hatred, and misguided zeal behind and moving forward in truth and light, ever closer to Christ. He’s aware of all he lost, but gladly trades it in for the surpassing greatness of knowing His Savior (Phil 3:4-8).

Elsewhere he pours out a long string of sufferings he endured (2 Cr 11:23-28,32-33). He hasn’t forgotten them. He remembers, and prays for his blind, misguided human enemies, desiring passionately that they would come to see the light God has revealed to him (Rom 10:1-3 NIV).

Bleeding Hearts

Then there’s Joseph, the Bible’s great human example of forgiveness. He didn’t forget, or pretend the wrongs done him never occurred. Effectively he made those brothers remember, themselves. And sweat. Scared them. Gave them stark awareness of how bad the just consequences of their evil actions could be. Then he granted them formal forgiveness, and reassurance.

I look up “remember” in the concordance, too, because maybe there are “do not remember” instructions?

I find none.

And though I haven’t thoroughly gone through all the references yet, so far what I find is a lot of commandments to remember!

Remember your affliction and slavery in Egypt.

Remember how you were mistreated, and remember God’s deliverance.

Remember all God’s marvelous works, and all he did for you in the past.

Remember your past errors and how wrong or foolish they were, so as not to commit them again.

Nothing has turned up (yet) that says to not-remember.

So it looks like we are to forgive without forgetting—that we should both remember and forgive.

Maybe “forgiving” without remembering isn’t really forgiveness, but avoidance, avoiding dealing with the painful issues, burying them instead? Pretending they never happened?

We can’t deal with what we don’t look at. We can’t forgive what we don’t acknowledge actually happened. And without looking, acknowledging, and then forgiving, how can we obey “Love your enemies…”?

Yes. Remember and forgive.

And more about loving our enemies, next time…


14 thoughts on “Forgive. And forget?

  1. oh. I can’t seem to formulate complete thoughts after reading this — I struggle so much with forgiveness and what to do with my hurt. I know to give it to God and ask Him to help me forgive, but it is the remembering and the STING that still remains. But perhaps it is because I have not been truly forgiving, but avoiding? oh. You have given me much to think about. Thank you.

  2. There is something about God – the way he never does things the way we think he would. Or should. And this whole idea of walking head-on, right into the thing that causes us pain? It’s not natural, is it? But earlier today I read about the way a bird turns into the wind – it’s what gives him the lift he needs to fly. I believe God wants us to fly.

    1. Anything but natural, Deidra! But what an excellent picture you give, the bird heading into the wind! That’s one to hang on to. I’m sitting here thinking about this, about how God maybe wants us to fly, and I think, Yes, yes, what does He say about eagles’ wings? That’s for those who wait on the Lord. Hmmm. Another thought to hang onto. Thank you much for sharing this!

  3. Hi Jen,
    It isn’t as simple as some people make it sound, is it? But I think God’s heart is blessed by every effort we make, every step we move in that direction. I haven’t written my next post yet, but it’s going to be more about the how. (Hint: *we* can’t do it, but…)
    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. God bless.

  4. yes yes, so simple and yet so difficult to put into place- some Christians (especially teaching women) have a tendency to misuse the forgiveness thing & lead women to continue to be mistreated (some not all) anyway- so important to turn it all over to the Lord and follow Him and not others – then you can’t go wrong. Forgiveness is good 🙂

    1. Yes, Kelli, you’re right. There’s a big difference between forgiving and putting oneself in jeopardy! And there is a lot of oversimplified or downright distorted thinking about the sort of thing you’re talking about. Or people just not realizing how they’re not presenting the whole picture. I hope I didn’t do that last bit, as one of those teaching women, but I may have done. And turning it over to the Lord is key! It will be good to spend more blog time on this difficult topic. Aiming to do that. (Stay tuned!) Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  5. Dear Sylvia,

    It occurred to me that the one thing we must never do, when thinking about the world and events in history, is forget. Forgetting causes us to do the same things over and over. We are to use past events as lessons that keep us from repeating past mistakes.

    We are all made from the same “cloth,” so to speak, so another’s harms to us can be lessons to keep us from being the same to others as well as to keep us from traps of those who would harm us. There is so much here. Thanks for opening up this tough subject for our pondering.

    Hugs this morning,

    1. Thanks, Dawn. Good thoughts! It occurs to me that the comments here present as much to digest and apply as the post itself, or more!
      Kinda scary, the topic, because I’m not an expert, haven’t “arrived,” just learning from my Great Teacher, and the what I write here is walking me through a growing process. I hope it serves as a help for others to do that, too. Today I write about love for enemies. Getting touchier and scarier yet there, because that’s something I don’t want anyone to misinterpret to their own harm — me or anyone else! Thanks for the hug, too. I can always use hugs!! And here’s one for you! (())

  6. I don’t think we are capable of true forgiveness unless we have Christ, in other words it is nothing we can do, it is He who is in us. I am a walking testimony of this. Will I ever forget what happened, NO! Do I need to forget, NO! It is a reminder of how great our God is, if He can change my heart, He can change anybody! This was one of the biggest struggles in my life, where I was full of anger, hate, torn relationships for 30 yrs. But that forgiveness came on the day of my salvation. Oh what a day of a changed heart!!! I give God all the glory for He has made me new!!

    1. You are so right-on with this, Bobbi, and I know the truth of it in your life. You are exactly where we are going with these posts. (I’m just in the process of getting one up right now, perhaps sans photos, before I shower and run off to a meeting.) And as I know what you say to have happened in your life, it is such a testimony to the power of Christ in “impossible” love and forgiveness. Very timely. Thank you, thank you, for it! And God richly bless you today, dear sister!

  7. Oh, how well I remember learning this – the pain it brought to realize that my forgetting had not brought healing but rather had stopped it in its tracks. True forgiveness must acknowledge what was done, not forget about it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv50xrsFNdU). Then we must turn to God for His help, for we are so incapable of offering forgiveness on our own, and so, so incapable of bringing healing to our own souls. Thank you so, so much for articulating this! It’s so important for us to realize that we do not need to forget in order to forgive. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Wow, Mary, that video! So much where we are with these posts and comments. Took me a while to get it, with our not-always-so-good service, but when I finally did… my! I hope readers take the time to watch it. Thank you for it, and your good comment. God bless you!

  8. Sylvia, I followed you back from your comment on my blog. When I landed on your home page I realized I had been here before, a couple of weeks ago, but seeing the description as “a woman’s blog” decided that didn’t include me, and read no further.

    I’m glad I read further this time, and hope you don’t mind a man commenting on your blog.

    You have some very solid teaching here. I love your posts on forgiveness, on praying for our enemies, and on forgiving while remembering. Your conclusions closely parallel my own…and these are still areas I continue to grow, search and pray.

    Thank you for the wisdom you have shared here.

    1. Joe,
      I’m glad you followed back this time, too. Thank you so much for your kind comments. They’re very encouraging to me. Sounds like you are working things out, too. Prayers for you in this. But this is how we grow, isn’t it? God bless!

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