“I can never forget what that person did to me!!” “Why would I forgive someone when they hurt me so badly?” “You just don’t understand the amount of hurt that I have experienced in my life. Forgiveness is impossible!”
Have you ever had those thoughts? Maybe you have even said something like one of those statements before. I know that I have had thoughts like those in my life. Being hurt by someone that you love is one of the worst experiences in life you can have. There are only a few that I can think of that might be worse…but those are for another discussion.
One of the biggest misconceptions of forgiveness is that of “Forgive and Forget.” We have all heard someone say, “just forgive and forget” whatever has happened to you. God did not make our brain to forget. As a matter of fact, God made our brains to remember. When we experience something in life, we remember better than something that we have heard or read. That is why experience is such a good teacher. That is why in school teachers assign homework and lab work so that we can experience what they are trying to get across. The fact that experience is a good teacher is also why so many jobs have on the job training and internships, because we learn by experiencing.
So if you think you can just forget some hurt that you have experienced, you are asking you brain to do something that it is not designed to do.
Forgiveness does not equal forgetting.
Forgiveness means that you choose not to focus on the hurt. Think about Ephesians 4:32 (NASB95) Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (emphasis mine) God tells us to forgive as He has forgiven us. How does He forgive us?
- His forgiveness is based on His own love for us. Romans 4:5 (NLT) 5 But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. (emphasis mine) We cannot earn God’s forgiveness; it is a gift based on the giver, not the receiver.
- He remembers our sin no more. Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) 12 “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”* (emphasis mine) We need to notice that this is a choice that God is making. It is not a statement of forgetfulness, but rather a choice not to remember. Someone might accuse me of playing a game of semantics, but I think that this distinction is very important to our ability to forgive. We can choose to not remember something better than we can forget the same thing. By choosing to not remember, we are saying that we will not focus on the wrong. We will focus on God’s love for us and for the person who hurt us.
- Then finally, HIs forgiveness is continual. 1 John 1:9 (NLT) 9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Even though God knows that we will continue to sin, He continually offers forgiveness. We need to keep this fact in mind, especially when we are talking about forgiveness in marriage. Our spouses will continually disappoint and hurt us throughout our marriage, maybe not intentionally, yet it still hurts. God continually forgives us when we wrong Him. We need to have the same attitude toward the people who hurt us.
Forgiveness is something that we all need to work on. Our ability to forgive is strengthened by our awareness of how much God has forgiven us.
What ways have you noticed God’s forgiveness in your life that you can pass on toward others that have hurt you?
Directed Path Ministries
After spending more than 25 years on church staffs, God has allowed me to take the experiences and knowledge that I gained to develop a Biblical Counseling ministry. The basis of this ministry is to allow God’s Word to shine on the main issues in peoples’ lives in order to bring His resolutions to problems.