While it’s not easy to do, we can forgive without forgetting.
Forgiveness proceeds forgetting and softens our hearts to begin to the process of letting go of the pain that has been done to us. There are times when we have to exercise self-discipline to forget, and other times when forgetting may lead to our detriment.
God says: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” —Isaiah 43:25
As believers, we strive to emulate the forgiveness of God in our own lives, and desire to forget, as God forgets.
Forgiveness Is Expected
Forgiveness is an expected practice for a Christian. When we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. This places a responsibility on us to forgive.
Jesus counseled the disciples:
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. —Matthew 5:23-24
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. —Matthew 6:14-15
However, the Word does not directly address forgetting what the person who has transgressed you did. The act of forgiveness implies that you will not hold the hurt against the person, and therefore will forget.
Forgetting Is a Purposeful Act — It Takes Some Practice
When we choose to forgive a person for the wrong done to us, we are acting on the Word of God. As we mature as Christians, forgiveness becomes second nature in the Christian walk. However, there will still be times when we will be challenged to forget.
Sometimes forgiving is simpler than forgetting. At these times, hold onto your forgiveness, reminding yourself that you have forgiven the person, and ask God to help you. For example, if a person you trusted has lied to you or misrepresented herself, it will take time to rebuild a level of trust. During this rebuilding, you will have to practice forgetting, and there will be times when you will question what the person says.
If a person has abused you or committed an unspeakable act towards you, you may have to seek God to gain the ability to forgive. In addition, once you forgive the person, it could be prudent to remember not to put yourself in a position with the person a second time. In this case, you may not forget.
Forgetting may take longer than forgiveness. There are times when the remembrance of the wrong may flare up and threaten our relationship with the ones we are trying to forgive. In these moments, we purposely remember that we have forgiven, and make a conscious effort to forget.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:13-14