Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does Forgiveness Have to Forget?

I have heard the cliche "forgive and forget." Sometimes I wish it was that easy. Sometimes I wish we could have selective amnesia--because part of the difficulty we face in forgiving others is releasing the anger, hurt, and betrayal we feel because of past wrongs they have done us. We like to nurse our wounds, and sometimes even use our hurt feelings as a way to manipulate another person by trying to make them feel guilty for the suffering they have caused us.

In the ministry, there will be ample opportunities to exercise forgiveness. We don't expect our fellow brothers or sisters to "hurt" us, whether intentional, or unintentional. Or perhaps you have been helping someone, bending over backwards to minister to them, and all of the sudden they just disappear from your life--or decide to attend a different church where "their needs are better met." This can really hurt if you don't keep your heart in the right place and learn to forgive.

If we are in Christ, God promises to remember our iniquities no more, and cast them into the depths of the sea. But He is God and we are human. I personally don't believe you have to "forget" to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice you will have to make, and continue to make when your feelings don't agree with your deliberate choice to forgive. We will be tempted to dig up the past, recall past injustices, and relive situations that have caused us pain. Forgiveness is a decision we make, but healing and restoration can be a process.

Over 20 years ago, I struggled for two years forgiving a person who had spoken publicly against my husband and his ministry, all of it untrue. Every day I would wake up with bitter feelings against this person, and would have to pray and ask God to help me forgive them. I don't know why I let it bother me so, but it seemed to be the focus of my attention. This man never asked for forgiveness; perhaps he never realized himself the hurt he caused my husband or us, his family.

It took a few years, but I can honestly say I hold no ill will towards him today. Every day for a few years though, I had to continually practice the act of forgiveness. When I was tempted to be angry or hold a grudge, I would tell the Lord about it and ask Him to help me forgive. I would quote scripture about forgiveness. Eventually the anger and pain subsided, and healed completely.

Realizing how imperfect I am, and how much the Lord has forgiven me, helps remind me that I need to forgive others as well.


Tricia said...

Thank you Carolee for such a good reminder! When we don't forgive, we don't hold the other person in a prison, we hold ourselves!!! I constantly have to remind myself of the truth of God's not believe the lies of the enemy...especially at this critical time in the ministry. Much love sent your way!

Victoria said...

I love when I get a chance to catch up on your blog! If we were to forget wrongs people have done to us, I fear that would often put us in danger or allow them to trespass against us again. The murderer can be forgiven, by us and by God, but consequences must still be paid. We don't constantly remind someone of how they offended us as that is not true forgiveness, but we go on w/out bitterness. It was years before I could forgive my dad for leaving me w/out a real father @ a crucial time in my life. Like you, I had to pray and forgive on a regular basis. God is good & patient w/ us & He is kind to often allow us to truly forget!