Walking in forgiveness
Some have asked me, “How can I forgive and forget?” Well, for starters, it is a blessed thing that God commands us to do only one of the two. God never commands us to forget but He does command us to forgive. Forgiveness has little to do with forgetting. Forgiveness is the releasing of a debt. Whether or not you choose to remember that debt is up to you, but either way we are still commanded to forgive. Yet, because we are made in God’s image, it is possible to forget a forgiven debt. God has promised not only to forgive us but to also remove and forget our sins. “‘They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:34)
The reason we have so much trouble forgetting is that we are often not ready to let go of our hurts. We tend our hurts with such care that we actually keep them alive much longer then God would have. God is waiting and ready to heal our hurts but we are not ready or willing to give them over to Him. Far too often we allow ourselves the luxury of replaying our hurts over and over in our minds. Every time we see the person who hurt us, or whenever something triggers the remembrance of a hurt, we remember in full the entire situation. We replay the entire event in our mind, complete with the emotions, hurt, and anger we felt. We remind ourselves of how unjustly we were treated and of the judgment that the other person deserves because of their ill treatment of us. With each rehearsal of the hurt, its influences over us become stronger and it becomes more ingrained within our soul. With each rehearsal it becomes harder and harder to let go.
What we need to understand is that, while forgiving is a decision, forgetting is a process. Forgetting does not happen all at once, it is a process that we walk out with God. The key to forgetting is found in one of the definitions of the Hebrew word for “forget”. To “forget” is to “neglect”. When we are drawn back to remember a past hurt, a hurt for which we have already forgiven the other person, we must choose not to entertain the remembrance. We must remind ourselves, and God, that we have already forgiven the other persons; that we have already released them from their debt they owed us because of their sin against us. We must not allow ourselves the “pleasure” of rehearsing the hurt, but rather we should replace a pattern of rehearsal with a new godly pattern. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Instead of replaying in our mind how the other person hurt us, we need to develop a new habit of blessing, praying, and doing good to the other person.
Here is the plan for forgetting. The next time you remember how someone hurt you, pray for them and ask God to blessing them. When you have an opportunity, do something good for them. In this way you will be neglecting the memory and, over time, it and its hurt will begin to fade. King Solomon reminds us that “whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3) If you have ever seen a freshly fallen tree, it still looks very much alive, albeit in a horizontal position. Its leaves are still green and you can still smell its fragrance, but overtime death takes hold. Its leaves brown and its branches become brittle. When we forgive, it is like falling the tree of offence committed by another. If we keep watering the fallen tree, it will live on longer, but if we simple neglect the fallen tree, it will wither and eventually decay to nothing. The same is true of our hurts. Immediately after forgiving, the hurts still seem very much alive, but if we commit to neglecting them, overtime, they will fade and their hurt will lesson until it is entirely forgotten.