What does it mean to 'Forgive And Forget?'


Many preachers have given this lesson on their pulpits but only few have ever detailed its meaning to their congregations. And as the Christians struggle to practice this conditional virtue, they are continuously disappointed to find that the flashes of their past terrible experiences keep peeping into their mind, something they had promised to forget. 

What happens next? They are thrown back into depression, into knowing that they never forgave the fellows and ultimately they were never forgiven by their God. Remember, I am referring to this virtue of forgiveness as conditional just because our God forgives when we forgive others or, rightly put, we forgive others because our God forgives us.

The bible has many verses telling us to forgive each other but it doesn’t have a verse saying, “forgive and forget” (Help me prove this by scrolling through all the books of the bible alert me if you find it). However, it has some verses highlighting that our God forgives and forgets our sins or trespasses (for example, Hebrews 8:12, Isaiah 43:25). And since our practice of any spiritual fruit is an exact reflection of our father’s practice, then we ultimately must forgive and forget and such a teaching is right.

However, is it really possible to forget? Can you forget a person who murdered your mother? Can you erase from your mind the fact that you were a dangerous robber? Can we forget the killings by Kibweteri in Kanungu or the torture of Ugandans by Idi Amin? What about the killings in Rwanda genocide? What about the slaughter of citizens in Kenya following elections these past years? Are you certain we can forget that? Should we think that forgetting is a divine miracle only possible with God and not His people? If yes, do you fathom God having forgotten how rebellious we were in the past or even yesterday and today? No, of course. He keeps reminding us how stubborn we were and calls us never to be so again. God knows and remembers our past as if it was just yesterday. But then, He deliberately decides not to hold us accountable, that is His forgetting. Let us read on.

Are we wrong because we keep remembering our past mistakes or those that others did to us? That is why we have the topic today.

Forgiving is an act of the heart while forgetting is an act of the mind (actually, the brain). Our brain memory centers have the capacity of recording whatever happens in our life-time and can re-flash them once in a while before our eyes again and again. While there are means to enhance our mind to remember or forget some things, it all works through the change of conception and perception of what is imprinted on our brains but not the actual erasing. But we can do actual erasing with the new medical technologies available (that is a topic for another day). And with time, some things can appear often in our conscious mind than others simply because they are the ones we enjoy, find pleasure in, or seem helpful depending on our current cured attitude or concept (psychology).

 From the above, we can define forgiveness as the act of changing our conception or perception or attitude towards the person or action in question. Simply, it is the act of seeing the other person with none-condemning eyes. It is a new way of seeing and treating the other person like she or he has never wronged you. It is giving up on our right to hold grudge against the offender. That is what forgiveness is. 

Forgetting, on the other hand, is putting the above in practice. It is the power to remember or revise whatever happened with a new perspective and passionate eyes. It is the heart’s spiritual power to control the brain’s expected reactions or reasons about what we did to others or what they did to us. When I say that I forgave, it simply means that I no longer hold any grudges against you. I now see you like you never hurt me or never intended to. When God confesses to remember our sins no more, He is simply saying that He no longer has any grudges towards us. We are now holy and righteous in his eyes like we never wronged him or never intended to.

However, all the above doesn’t remove the fact that things happened the way they did. And our mind can’t get rid of such a fact. It is imprinted on it till we die. Actually, trying to force forgetting can bring tremendous results you have never imagined and it is neither spiritually nor physically health. Paradoxically, have you realized that the things we forcefully want to forget are the ones that keep re-appearing closely? Don’t get upset if things you did to others or what they did to you re-appear once in a while, mind about how they make you feel once they do. It is then you will tell if you forgave and forgot.

The Complete You Ministry, www.nemvicx.com

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