Is It Possible To Forgive And Forget?

Forgiving comes from the very heart of God. It is found throughout Scripture.

“Forgiving and forgetting” is not found in Scripture–at least not when it speaks of human beings. Yet, in the age of the Messiah God is spoken of as forgetting our sin and remembering it no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

As I think of this concept, I find it more and more difficult. What does it mean to forgive and forget? Is this even possible?

From a human point of view forgetting is not possible. It’s like being told not to think about pink elephants. At that point, all you can do is think of pink elephants. So in this sense we are not commanded or expected to forget an offense.

In fact, the greater grace may be shown when we are fully aware of the wrong and yet we choose to forgive.

What I believe most people mean by forgiving and forgetting is very much biblical. They mean you must forgive and let go. You must no longer hold the wrongs of another against them. Remember, love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13).

When we constantly remind others of their sins and failings, we can be sure forgiveness has not occurred. If we remind ourselves how miserable someone has made us we can be sure we have not forgiven.

If you would like to receive my daily posts about life and Scripture, please subscribe at the top of the page. Over the next few days and weeks, I will look at different facets of forgiveness. Subscribing will mean you won’t miss any of these posts. It’s easy to do and completely free.

I believe the way we should handle forgiveness goes like this:

“Lord, in response to your command, I forgive my brother and release him from the offense. I do this because of You and for You. I promise at this point to let go of the offense and to no longer keep a record of the wrong. I promise no longer to bring the offense up to my brother or to you. Please help me to please You by seeing only the good in my brother.”

A better way to describe this process is forgiving and letting go.

By letting go of our pain and letting go of our desire to get even, we also let go of our right to hold on to it. Speaking the words of forgiveness results in victory over sin and victory over the pain.

Ask God to help you with your forgiveness and letting go. Ask Him to bless you as you bless those who have harmed you.

6 Comments


  1. Ed Matthew
    Sep 04, 2013

    One of the best stories regarding revenge comes out of the Pol Pot Cambodian Khmer Rouge era. A friend (who past around the time of Katrina) shared with me after Torah study one Saturday morning about the family he and his wife adopted. They were serving through Doctors without borders. The Cambodian family was lined up like many families were, the husband and father was executed in front of them. When the family came to New Orleans the local “news team” interview them. They were asked how long it would be before they would return, “to take back Cambodia” and revenge their father. Their answer was, they had no interest in going back to Cambodia. A follow up question was then asked, “Then how will you get revenge for your father?” I suggest their answer fits right into your message, “We will go on with our lives; and we will Live!”

    Blessings


  2. dr. james willingham
    Sep 04, 2013

    One of the most interest cases of forgiveness that I have ever encountered was not stated in such terms. A friend of mine in seminary and throughout our lives since, had a wife, Filippino who was tortured by the Japanese 8 hrs a day, 7 days a week for two months and 28 days. When they were finished the tossed her apparently lifeless body out on a pile of corpses, where a filippino labor noticed and involuntary sign of life, got her to the hospital where she was hid in the nuns quarters and delivered a child that night. After the war (her husband had died and she met and married an American Marine and came to America), she was with her husband running an international house in Washington, D.C., which ministered to the staffs of the embassies. One day a car pulled up, while she was working on the flower bed in front of the building, and the Japanese fellow who got out, she recognized as the man who supervised her torture Her firt impulse was to run up and stab him with the trowel she held in her hand. Something or, rather, someone made her drop it. That evening at dinner, the Japanese guest was setting across the table from her, when he said, “You look familiar. I feel like I should know you.” She said, “Oh, you know me alright.” Then he turned white as he recognized her, and he started saying what a bad fellow he was. Her husband setting near by reached out and touched him and said, “Don’t worry. It is okay. We are Christians>” To make a long story short, the man hung around the international house for several days, even helping the lady wash dishes. He was won to Christ by that experience. The lady was tested by Duke Hospital for allergies, the results of the trauma of torture in her case, and she tested positive for something over 260 allergies. The lady also won Margaret Mitchell (the author of Gone With The Wind) to Christ a few weeks before the latter was killed in a car accident. The wife of my friend died in 2005. Her story is recounted in her autobiography, The Price of Freedom, by Mamerta de los Reyes Block, published in the year of her passing, I think.


    • Waylon
      Sep 06, 2013

      Thanks James, forgiveness is truly amazing. This story shows the power of forgiveness to make the Gospel clear and compelling.


  3. Ed Matthew
    Sep 04, 2013

    Thank you. It goes with Martha’s blog, an example of God’s Grace at work.
    Blessings


  4. Kelley Avery
    Sep 04, 2013

    Forgiveness is, like love, a choice not a feeling. The more we try to “feel” like forgiving someone; the more we are apt for bear the grudge. Call it mental discipline of whatever you will, forgiveness is a choice that may have to be made 100 times in a row until it “takes” us. I call this a discipline of the Spirit. Like giving, forgiveness only benefits me when I choose to obey, to do it. Exercises like reflecting on the number of times I tempt God not to forgive me by repetitive offense in a particular area may help. But whatever the means, the choice must be made! For to “not forgive” is t to love. And if we do not love, the chances are we are only deceiving ourselves about our relationship to the Father in the Son.


    • Waylon
      Sep 05, 2013

      Well said. The “will” is an essential part of our love for God and others. Thanks for adding to the conversation about forgiveness.

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. — James 4:10 (NIV)