Can I Forgive Without Forgetting?
We all are becoming experts of forgiveness. The longer we live in any type of community, the more opportunities you have to forgive. We are a messy, broken people full of cracks, and we often need to receive forgiveness just as much as we dish it out. It's a necessary part of relationship - I would argue you can't be in authentic relationship without practicing forgiveness. If it's so common and so necessary, why oh why is it so difficult?! Why do so many of us struggle with this task of forgiveness? The problem is, we want to forgive without forgetting. We want to be the bigger person, but also keep score in the back room, just in case. We don't want to let go of the justice score, because if we do, no one else will remember. If you forgive your friend and then completely forget what they did, you can bet that no one else would remember that wounding, and surely justice will be lost. You must remember, to protect yourself. Forgive, but never forget for fear of repeating the past. You learned from that wound - learned to not put yourself in that situation. Learned to keep a wall up so it doesn't happen again. If you forget the wounding, you'll lose your ability to stay safe. Does any of that sound familiar? Read it again. Notice that each of those statements are based in fear. All of those excuses for not forgetting are rooted in fear. And we know that fear is not of God - His love casts it out.
We often talk about forgiveness as an event. You can pinpoint a moment you forgave someone. You wonder why you have to forgive them over and over and over.
Truth is, forgiveness is a state. Not a one time event, but a choice to live from forgiveness. You can step out of it at anytime, and you can step back into it when you choose to. To remember and recall the wound, you have to step out of forgiveness. You can't live with one foot in and one foot out.
Which one of those diagrams do you believe God operates in? After all, He is the ultimate forgiver. Who better to learn from? He loved you at your worst. Your absolute most selfish, fleshly, sinful self is the one that He chose. He's able to do so because of the incredible gift of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus absolved our sins, God chose to completely forget them. There is not one moment when you are in His presence and He's thinking about that awful thing you did last year. He is not remembering and checking the score for how many sins you've racked up. His Word says that as far as the east is from the west is how far our transgressions are removed from us (Psalm 103:12). The East and the West? They never touch. Always at opposite ends.
God is not just forgiving this way because He's God. He's doing this to model for us a method of forgiveness that works. We would do well to attempt it in our own relationships. This is an invitation, Beloved, to love as He loves. To live in that circle of forgiveness, and not step out into revisiting your wounds. You can stay safely in that circle, because you can trust Him to protect you. You don't have to keep a wall up in case another wound comes. You don't have to keep a justice score - He is the only justice you need - the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice (Psalm 50:6).
It is possible. I am living testimony of this truth. It works. You can choose to separate the sin from the sinner, completely forgive and forget the sin and then you are left free to love the one standing in front of you. Our enemy hates this truth. He doesn't want you to know that memory is one of his favourite tools. He will absolutely try to pluck you out of that forgiveness circle and have you step back to remember and revisit your wound. He's awfully predictable though. He'll try it again and again. Your job? Stay in the circle. Refuse to revisit the wounds once they are healed. There is no benefit in following that line of thinking - you cannot afford to go there. You cannot afford to entertain the memories and put the sin back on that person. The cost is too high. The more you resist the temptation to remember the wound, the less and less the enemy will remind you of it.
The world likes to say "time heals all wounds". That's not the whole truth. I know some people who feel a wound from decades ago as fresh as if it were minutes ago. The only thing that heals all wounds is God. If we partner with Him by forgiving & forgetting, we will be a people with a peace that passes understanding and a love that never fails.