Forgive and Forget

There is no use in talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, “You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.” In the same way I could say of a certain man, “Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.” For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. ~ C.S. Lewis

Forgive and forget.

How often have we been told that, taught that –ย  heard it said, heard it sung? It seems that everyone says it, except God.

We’re told to forgive: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)ย  He doesn’t add, and forget it ever happened. There are so many things we have forgiven and forgotten. But there are some scars that remind us of things forgiven.

Remembering doesn’t mean not forgiving. Continuing to hold it against another does.

So often we struggle with forgiveness; either refusing to offer it or fearing we haven’t, because we can’t forget. We all know what it means to forget something. We do it all the time. Maybe the problem lies in knowing what it means to forgive something. Lewis Smedes says:

You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.

God holds only Himself to the high standard of forgetfulness. For I will be merciful regarding their wrong deeds, and I will never again remember their sins. (Hebrews 8:12).ย  He doesn’t tell us to forgive and forget. We added that ourselves. For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again.

God doesn’t tell us to forgive and forget. He tells us to forgive and forgive.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

36 thoughts on “Forgive and Forget”

  1. I was really thinking today about forgive and forget! Thank God for this! Forgiving doesn’t mean, giving a chance to do you wrong again, but giving a larger room for your heart to learn trust and love again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Forgive and forgive! Thank you!

    1. Hello jeizchey!
      What a lovely way of putting it!
      Yes, I think forgiveness knocks down the walls and enlarges our hearts!
      ~ Debbie

  2. “Remembering doesnโ€™t mean not forgiving. Continuing to hold it against another does.” What a great point Deb! Thank you! I am glad to be catching up on your blogs. Things have been so busy this last month!

  3. Debbie,

    “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”

    oh boy. This is HUGE and really important. It IS a tricky balance to remember and honor what may have come your way; good and bad AND still find in in my heart to also honor forgiveness. Some things seem unforgivable. Jesus showed us that is not true. Do does the Dalai Lama and so did Gandhi and Martin Luther King and….. on and on. The only real healing comes with forgiveness and when it is hard to remember AND forgive I will remember the words above.

    I have a very difficult person in my life who has caused my family tremendous pain and can be dangerous. I went to my priest because I just could NOT figure out how to live with my anger that verged on hatred I wanted to find space to begin to forgive this woman (This is a dangerous woman. I AM a Mama bear…)

    Father Chrys said after some silent time “You do not need to love or forgive her right now. You need to know that God loves and forgives her. Now YOU need to protect your family. Remember: God loves her and right now you don’t have to.” wo. It was intense BECAUSE that gave me the room to FEEL my feelings and work through the difficult nature of dealing with her. NOW I CAN find moments where I feel sorry for this woman. I “have the power to wish her well” BECAUSE of letting go of trying too hard to forgive her!

    I think that the denial route to forgiveness is a short cut to nowhere. I think we do have to REMEMBER and Forgive or at the least “Feel the power to wish them well…..”

    Oh boy. You have given me some mighty stuff to think on. No strike that: to pray on. Thinking will get me nowhere fast.

    Thank you for always hitting the nail on the head.

    XO Jen

  4. This was great Debbie, I love the line about forgive, and forgive. Some things just can’t be forgotten, but that does not mean that we can’t forgive.

    1. Dear Greg –
      When we link those two very different concepts together, we build a barrier to forgiveness that can become very soul damaging.
      Thank you for reading and thank you for the re-post!
      Your friend,
      ~ Debbie

  5. In some counseling we do at church….part of the forgiving process is that the person prays a blessing for the one who has hurt them. Really brings His healing to the situation. Like Lewis said.

    1. Judi –
      That’s truly beautiful. I think that when you can sincerely pray for blessings for the ones who’ve hurt you, you’re set free down to the core.
      Thank you for sharing this. It’s something I’m going to try to consciously practice,
      love and grace to you, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

    1. Dear Linda –
      I love Heidi’s take on it – praying to remember what we need to and forgetting the rest.
      You’re so very right. Our pasts, maybe our pain more than our joys, have shaped us and hopefully tenderized us, so that out of that pain, we offer compassion and comfort to others.
      As always, thank you for your thoughts, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

  6. Gracious one, I learn so much here. Thank you! What an amazing truth this is that it’s God who is the one who “forgets” but never tells us to. God bless you for showing us to just forgive and then forgive! I’m joining Heidi and praying for your up coming book deal. love and prayers – the other deb

    1. Dearest Deb –
      I’m not thinking the world needs one more devotional book – but thanks, my friend!
      Forgive and then forgive again… as we have been forgiven and forgiven and forgiven, again and again and again!
      It’s late Wednesday night. Thursday prayers have begun early. ๐Ÿ˜€
      ~ Debbie

  7. I have been hearing the phrase “for give and forget” ever since I was a kid. It seemed plausible at the time, but as I grow older, I realized that I can forgive without forgetting the wrong which someone has done to me. It is easier to forgive than to forget.

    I thank you very much for sharing this post, Debbie.

    1. Noel –
      It makes me wonder how many things I’ve incorporated into my belief system, thinking it’s Biblical, when it really is just something that’s “caught on”? Forgiveness can be so difficult. Tacking on forgetting I think would move some folks into the realm of denial instead of healing.
      Thank you for sharing here,
      ~ Debbie

  8. I can never hear enough on the subject of forgiveness–and Debbie and Heidi, you’ve both opened it up like flower petals so that I’m seeing it more clearly today. How we remember–what we do with the memories–is very key, and does make for a good measuring stick of our healing and maturity. Wonderful words here, full of His Amazing Grace. God bless y’all abundantly–love, sis Caddo

    1. Dear Caddo –
      That’s what I love about this place. It’s so full of the heart’s and wisdom of others!
      There’s a lot of talk about a lot things in the ‘Christian community’ about what we should fight. I think unforgiveness may be the greatest battle.
      Thank you for being here, thinking, praying, encouraging.
      love and grace to you, Caddo of the every multiplying alphabet,
      ~ Debbie

    1. Susie –
      I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said 70×7, implicit in that was the knowledge that we would sometimes remember – but always need to be willing to forgive anyway…
      Yes, God loves us! ๐Ÿ˜€
      ~ Debbie

      1. Morning
        My daily reader Our Daily Bread had this very subject today
        They wrote: The best way to get the last word in is to apologize
        God Bless

  9. Boy, oh boy! And that’s what we do, Forgive and Forgive. That is so right on! Love to you oh wise one. XO Melis

    1. dear melis –
      I love this C.S. Lewis quote because it’s so very real and true: “For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again.”
      As I alluded to in my comment to Heidi, I had to do some post-death forgiving of the two people in this photo with me.
      It wasn’t instantaneous but it’s been so good and so healing and so freeing!
      love and grace,
      ~ Debbie

  10. Simply brilliant! “So often we struggle with forgiveness; either refusing to offer it or fearing we havenโ€™t, because we canโ€™t forget” There are some things I’ve PRAYED to forget, unless I need the memory for a purpose (as opposed to replaying and reliving).

    The result is that I’ve forgotten things and when people remind me I think, “Wow. God answered my prayer to take it out of my head.” The surprising thing is when I realize that, I never want to take it back and punish the person in my mind. I just let it go again, only now I’m grateful for the reminder because I can measure the healing by the ‘forgetting’.

    I balance that with knowing some things cannot truly be forgotten because then we might be re-victimized by the same ploys. I guess what I’m saying is that as we heal, we might forget, but He doesn’t tell us that’s a measure of our forgiving. Am I saying that right? I love the Smedes quote. I believe that.

    “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.” Now, that’s really God’s work in my heart! Grace… so powerful.

    Thank you for covering this topic. So much mystery surrounds forgiveness. Interesting picture. Care to comment?

    1. Heidi , I loved how you saw us remembering and the purpose of that, to help us see what He has done in our lives! Thank you!

    2. OK my friend – SO much to comment on here!
      1st – I learned the concept of praying to forget what we don’t need to remember from you and I think that it’s inspired!

      2nd – I agree. There are things that we’ve forgiven that we shouldn’t forget. I think that’s part of assimilating wisdom.

      3rd – I love Smedes measuring stick.

      4th – Hmm… The picture. I have no recollection of where this was taken. Looking at me, I’d guess it was around 1960. My Grandma and my Dad have been the two people (other than myself) in my life I had to really struggle to forgive.
      There’s great peace in forgiveness and I live in that now.
      Time and grace have paved the way to a more generous heart than I might have had if I hadn’t had the need to forgive them.

      You do ask the hard questions, Heidi. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. I read something about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t some months back. How messed up we get when we think forgiveness is forgetting. Thank you, Debbie, for this reminder for me.

    1. Debby –
      It may have been here. This is a rewrite of my original post (written back in the early days when you were about the only one reading). ๐Ÿ˜€
      I wanted to talk about it again because it seems to me there’s so much that isn’t forgiven because we’ve linked it to forgetting – thinking if we can’t forget, we can’t or haven’t forgiven.
      I just don’t that’s the litmus test.
      ~ Debbie

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