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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  1. #1 by Karen Hartley on November 10, 2010 - 6:05 pm

    A question occurred to me after reading this: If we truly forgive, does it matter if we don’t forget?

  2. #2 by Luke Simmons on November 12, 2010 - 6:23 am

    I think Pritchard is discussing whether you continue to remember and dwell on it. His point seems to be that it’s fine to not forget it as long as it doesn’t continue to swallow you up with bitterness.

  3. #3 by Barb Flynn on November 20, 2010 - 11:11 pm

    I used to have a list of mental offenses people committed against me. Verbally I would say I had forgiven, but when another offense occured, I found I went down the list, rereading all the old “sins” and adding the new one at the bottom. Then I began to think about sowing and reaping. I listened to the Lord’s prayer when He said, “forgive us our tresspasses AS we forgive…” and I remembered the verses that brought me comfort when I sinned, how God remembered my sin no more, how He cast it into the sea and that He put it as far as the east is from the west….and then how Jesus had commanded us to forgive the way the Father did…..plus the verses of the King and the servant whom He had forgiven much, but who refused to forgive a fellow servant…..
    and one night I asked God to take the list away….and He did! I may remember I was angry at someone….but usually within a few days, I cannot remember why! Without details, I can’t be angry! Now, what I feel inside is that the list is there….but it feels like God has it behind a curtain. If I draw the curtain, I know I will find all the memories. And if I search for it, I will find it. But I don’t dare touch it. I don’t want it back.
    I know this is a great gift from God. I think if you ask for forgetfulness, God just might grant it to you!
    See Ps. 103:12, Heb 8:12, Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 38:17 and 43:25, Eph. 4:32 and Micah 7:19.

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