It’s Hard to Forgive; It’s harder to Forget
by Andy Lee
My friend Andy Lee has written one of the best blogs I’ve ever read on how to forgive and FORGET! I wanted to share it with you. Visit Andy on her site at: wordsbyandylee.com
Forgiveness is almost impossible sometimes. We know we should. We want to, but the memories keep the pain alive. Unforgiveness is dangerous. It can cause sickness and stress and makes us bitter, angry people. It is the root of the problems in many friendships, marriages, and working relationships. On our own we can’t do it. We need help. We Need Enabling Grace.
This is what I love about God. He never demands anything from us that he will not provide the help to do. He also doesn’t require anything of us that he is not willing to do. How do we forgive others? Well, we start with the heart of our God and his gift of forgiveness. Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7: 18-19). He delights in showing mercy. He delights in forgiving us! I want to be like that.
The human heart usually wants revenge, but revenge never brings new life, only death. Death of friendships and marriages. Death of joy. By God’s grace, we can extend grace. His undeserved favor can empower us to be forgiving people. Remember this and pray for his empowering grace before you lash back. Breathe. Count to ten. Wait as long as you need to respond rather than react. Wait until God gives you the words and the grace to respond kindly.
God’s Perspective. Oh, to have God’s perspective. Jesus used the precious air left in his lungs when dying on the cross to cry out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus could see the true hearts and thoughts of the people crucifying him. He knew their ignorance. Pray to see the people you can’t forgive as Jesus sees them. Hurt people hurt people, right? We all know that, but our defenses rise up and we want to lash back. I see it with my middle school students all the time. They can’t see the pain of the person stirring up trouble, so they lash back which intensifies the battle. But kindness can disarm the anger. Pray: “God, help me see ____________ as you do.”
How to Forgive and Not Remember. So, here’s the deal: we may never completely forget, but God will soften the memory and heal our wounds as we choose to forgive. The Bible tells us that God will “remember our sin no more.” But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor,or a man his brother,saying, ‘Know the LORD,’for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more.” says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and orders the moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of Hosts is His name:… (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Understanding Hebrew Culture. The Bible tells us that God will “not remember” our sins, but we need to know Hebraic culture to really understand what it means to “forget” and forgive. Many of us fear that if we can’t forget then we haven’t forgiven.But according to Lois Tverberg, there’s more to forgiving and forgetting than having it erased from our brains. In her book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, Tverberg explains that in Hebrew the word for “remember” is zakhar. It means both to remember and to take action as one remembers. The Hebrew word for “forget”, shakach and nashach, also holds the idea of not acting upon the memory.
Notice the psalmist cry to God: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). Tverberg explains: “Here the psalmist is saying, “Why do you ignore my prayers and not intervene in my crisis?” God does not forget, but sometimes it seems as if he does. We know that feeling don’t we? When circumstances don’t get better it feels as if God’s inaction proves He’s forgotten us even though He hasn’t.
To Forget Is More than Memory Loss. In the same way, when God forgives and no longer “remembers” our sins, he is not acting on our sin. In the same way when we forgive and “forget,” it’s not that the memory is erased, it’s that we don’t retaliate.. We don’t lash back with hurtful words or actions.
When I read about this Hebrew concept of “forgetting” in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, I felt such freedom. This is what I love so much about our God and His Word. It is freeing. It’s not demanding. His commands don’t suck the life out of us. If they do, we aren’t interpreting it correctly.
Quit Striving to Forget. Listen to these words from Brian Simmons, the author of The Passion Translation of the Bible. When you know Me, you will no longer strive to be better or strive to be loved. When you experience My endless compassion, you will learn to forgive. To strive is to leave My strength and embrace the cares of life. To refuse to strive means you will enter the life that I give to all those who love Me. Faith rests in hope. Know that I will never fail you or disappoint you. So My child, this is the day of Sabbath joy when you will enter into the realm of My kingdom.
In God’s Kingdom there is forgiveness, and the Kingdom of God is in us who have asked for Jesus to come into our lives and be our king.