Archive for November 10th, 2010

What about the person who says, “I can forgive but I can’t forget”?

Forgiveness can be a complex issue, especially when it comes to deep or ongoing hurt. There’s definitely more to discuss than I had time to last Sunday, so here are some answers to common questions about forgiveness from Ray Pritchard’s, The Healing Power of Forgiveness.

What about the person who says, “I can forgive but I can’t forget”?

This is a common problem and a common statement. In pondering this problem, my mind ran to a scripture in the book of Hebrews that speaks of God’s forgiveness of our sins. Surely if we have trouble forgetting, what about God, who never forgets anything? Hebrews 10:17 quotes God as saying, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” According to the phrase “I will remember their sins no more,” God chooses not to remember our sins.

That’s helpful, isn’t it? Forgiveness is a choice we make. It is not a feeling or a mood or a passing notion. Forgiveness does not mean we somehow wipe out of our mind the record of what happened. Forgiveness means we choose not to remember it. There is a big difference between remembering a painful event and dwelling on it.

Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, was talking with a friend one day when the name of a person they both knew came up. Years before, that person had acted meanly toward Clara. The friend asked Clara, “Don’t you remember when she did that to you?” “No,” Clara replied, “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

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Is forgiveness an event or a process?

Forgiveness can be a complex issue, especially when it comes to deep or ongoing hurt. There’s definitely more to discuss than I had time to last Sunday, so here are some answers to common questions about forgiveness from Ray Pritchard’s, The Healing Power of Forgiveness.

Is forgiveness an event or a process?

The answer is it’s both. Forgiveness is an event in the sense that you must, at some point, decide to forgive. And it is a process that must be repeated often over time. I spoke with a woman whose husband abandoned her for a younger woman, leaving her with a very young child to raise alone. As she told me the story, she said, “I guess I’ve forgiven him a million times. I forgive him over and over again every day.” I replied, “You’ll probably have to forgive him a million more times before its over.” That may not seem like a word of hope, but, in fact, it is. Remember, forgiveness isn’t a tool for manipulating people into having a good relationship with you…we should practice forgiveness for God’s sake and our own. That ought to be enough to motivate any of us.

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