To Forgive is not to Forget

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Had the rare opportunity to go home early last Monday. Caught the sunset. It was beautiful as usual; no haze could dampen those colors.

I’ve been thinking of the word ‘Forgive’ all week (among many other things I think about, haha). In the Christendom, we always say “forgive and forget”, or “you can only truly forgive when you truly forgotten.”

I often hear believers and even leaders say that one has never truly forgiven unless one has forgotten the others offenses. And for years I subscribed to this notion because there is much truth in it. The bible says in Isaiah 43:25 that God blots out our transgressions,  remembering them no more. As believers, we are called to be like Christ. That is to emulate Christ and His attributes. Jesus says as our sins are forgiven and He will even remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), we are to do the same for our counterparts. The condition for our salvation, for our forgiveness is also to forgive others who have sinned against us. As such, we are to forgive and forget.

But is it? What if you’re a victim of abuse? What if you suffer a detrimental (financial or property) loss because of somebody? What if you lost a loved one to a murderer? What if you were dealt a great wrong from someone whom you used to trust? How is it right to demand of these victims to not just forgive that person, but to even forget his or her wrongdoing?

As a believer, I advocate forgiveness without a shadow of a doubt. To not forgive and to hate is to drink poison and hope the other person dies. However, I feel that forgiving someone doesn’t always have to be tied with forgetting his or her (grave) wrongdoing. There you have it, another contradicting statement by a Christian – me. But see, not everything is in shades of black or gallant white. In life, there’s a lot of grey and not everything can simply be segregated into black or white.

I picture myself as a victim of a great wrong, to forgive is hard enough. How can I actually forget?! When Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven (an allegory to forgive always), He didn’t said anything about “forget seventy times seven.” Being a Christian is not to say that “I forgive you and will even forget the great wrong you have done to me. We can be bestest friends from henceforth and live life happily ever after.” We need to forgive, yes, no questions asked. But depending on the gravity of the wrongdoing, we forget not.

I remember an incident nine years ago – after being a believer for about 4 months, I raised my hand at a cell group meeting to ask God to help me to forgive a family member and to help me release the grudge I held against him. Tears rolled down my eyes as I was being prayed for. I thank God that when I was asked to forgive, He didn’t ask me to forget because a decade of wrong can’t simply be blotted out!

To the victim, the pain is real and it is not [easily] forgotten just when he or she wants to. I [would like to] believe that God knows and respects that we are imperfect and are unable to forget as He does. Everything that happens in our lives; the good and the bad, we can’t simply just delete these scenes from our lives like a video clip being edited on Windows Movie Maker. The irony of life is there will be the good, and there will be the bad moments where we might feel so indignant for the wrong done to us. But that is also the beauty of life, for the bad also serves to illuminate the good, to develop our character, to make us wiser peoples.

To forgive doesn’t mean we will forget the emotions and the pain that was felt as though it will just go away – it probably won’t. But being a Christian means we need to learn to forgive.

We forgive but we forget not – because what’s done cannot be undone or simply be swept under the carpet.

We forgive but we forget not – the pain that was felt cannot be erased, but the experience can be used to strengthen our heart and even to help someone else who went through a similar predicament (see Paul encouraging New Testament believers with his three-time shipwreck, snake biting, his receiving 195 stroke of the lashes, and multiple prison experience).

We forgive but we forget not – at one point we could still be friends on a very nominal level, but that’s as far as we can go.

We forgive but we forget not – so that we can also see how God has moved in our heart and through our heart to draw out mercy of such magnitude it is able to actually forgive the offender of the great wrong he or she has dealt to us.

We forgive but we forget not – so that we recognize that in our weakness we are made strong through Christ, to the point of even loving our offenders in spite of their trespasses against us.

But at the same time, we need to forget in some areas too.

We need to forget our vendetta against the offender.

We need to forget that the offender ‘owes’ us.

We need to forget how the wrong has caused us to hate, to be disillusioned about life and people, or to be cynical.

We need to forget how we thought that (this offender and) this offense will stop us from moving on with our lives.

We need to forget our condemning mindset that the offender will never change.

We need to forget, to disassociate and isolate the pain and offense away from the offender.

Even so, it is still difficult to just forgive our enemies. But Jesus says that we can obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) to help us to forgive… and to forget.

There are so many people who need to forgive, and who need the Lord, but do not come before Him because they have a misconception that they need to forget in order to qualify. I wish I can tell you that God knows the pain you felt, He has also felt the pain you felt. God is not expecting you to forget that that ever happened. Let Jesus do the heavy-lifting, let Jesus do the forgetting. But Jesus does want us to forgive, Jesus does want us to ‘forget’ – to move on from the unfortunate incident and to live an abundant life.

Forgive abundantly, forget wisely. In all things, choose life, choose love.

Disclaimer: The contents in this entry is solely the writer’s thoughts and beliefs. It does not reflect the shared sentiments of any organization or community that the writer subscribes to and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

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