I do not “forgive & forget”

“FORGIVE and FORGET.”

Most of us have been given this advice at some point in our life. Some of us have heard it from other Christians, and if you’re anything like me you may have thought that it sounded like a good idea! Maybe you felt like you weren’t good at forgiving because you couldn’t quite forget how that person hurt you.  Maybe you felt like you weren’t a “good Christian” because of this. Maybe there is someone in your life that you think you have forgiven, but are not completely sure if it is seen as true forgiveness because you have distanced yourself from them. I am here to tell you why I stopped telling myself to “forgive and forget” and why you can, too.




 

We know that forgiveness is a huge aspect of the Christian faith. Whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc., we have all been taught that Jesus forgives, so we should as well. So, the “forgive” part makes sense, biblically…

  • Matthew 18:35 says forgive “from your heart
  • Jesus even forgave Simon Peter, his disciple that denied him 3 times
  • Luke 6:37 – “…Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
  • Matthew 6:14-15 says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  • Colossians 3:13&15 – “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of your has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ” & “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

    From this passage, I gather that forgiveness is closely linked to having peace in your heart. 

 

Forgiving someone does not just involve telling God and/or the other person that you have done so. In order to truly forgive, one must be at peace with the other person and with the situation. It is an active CHOICE. It is hard work and can take a lot of humility to forgive someone; pride often gets in the way of forgiveness. In the end, I think we can all agree that forgiveness is necessary, particularly if you have a friendship with the person.




 

But… where does the “forget” part come into play? I believe that most people who give us this advice are doing so out of love and sincerity, but I wonder how many people have actually thought about what forgetting something really entails. Sometimes we feel that by forgiving someone, we will be saying “it’s okay”, when it might not be. I think that this

misconception about the biblical concept of forgiveness

stems from the wording of the advice forgive and forget. Forgetting implies that you have completely wiped the transgression from your memory and will never think of it again.

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Biblically…

  • In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus told Peter that he was to forgive his friend not 7, but 77 times.
    • This implies not keeping track of faults.
  • Luke 23:34 – “… Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…”
    • Jesus forgave all of us, even without repentance. The person we need to forgive may not have apologized.
  • Matthew 5:39-40 (can also be seen in Luke 6:29)
    • … If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
      • A lot of people have misconceptions about this verse. My NIV Quest Study Bible (page 1418) says…
        • To be struck on the cheek was symbolic of being personally insulted, not physically attacked. To ‘turn the other cheek’ meant to ignore the insult.
        • This means to forgive instead of seeking revenge
  • 1 Corintheans 13:5 
    • “Love keeps no record of wrongs”
      • do not hold something against another. Do not use it for leverage in an argument, do not remind them about it to inflict guilt, and do not base your opinion of the person upon their wrongdoings.

 

All of these teachings are very accurate, but none of them explain the word forget quite like we use it today. Society has turned the phrase “forgive and forget” into something that is said without thought. It is seen on t-shirts, notebooks, and tattoos. Even in the above passages, forgetting does not mean to completely wipe the transgression from your memory. It simply means to not hold it against another person… which in itself is a part of the concept of forgiveness. So, why add the “forget” part? All it does is lead people astray, which allows them to have their hearts hurt over and over again.

  • Hosea 3:1-3
    • The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites… So I bought for her fifteen shekels of silver and…. barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.'”
      • While this is an Old Testament example, Hosea is still practicing love and forgiveness while making sure his wife knows that what she did was not okay and cannot happen again. Hosea forgives his wife while being cautious of his heart and purposeful with their future.
  • Luke 17:3 
    • So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
  • Proverbs 4:23
    • Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.



After far too many years of striving to FORGET and getting hurt over and over again by the same people in the same situations, I have stopped telling myself to forgive and forget. It ends at FORGIVE. 

And yes, you can still love others in this way. It just means that you are loving yourself, as well. 

2 comments

  1. To me, its the “Peace Inside” part that is the KEY, Because: when i lose God’s Peace inside my heart, its because SOMETHING is coming between God and me and more times than not in my life it will turn out to be a situation that needs ‘forgiveness’ – meaning it’s something I have not yet turned over to God…

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