The Power of Forgetfulness
I’m beginning to notice more and more that my mind does not always hold the information I entrust to it. I forget what I was planning to tell someone less than five minutes before. I go to the grocery store because I need one item and return with a full bag, but without the one item I need. I dot my calendar with reminders, then forget to check the calendar. But with all the good things that I seem to forget, it seems there are other things that I always remember. Unfortunately, it is those other things that would be so much better for me to forget.
You see, I remember someone’s unkind remark or action, their undeserved criticism or rude gesture. I remember when someone overlooks, ignores, or intentionally disregards me or someone I love. Such actions hurt and I remember. It’s even worse when such actions are committed by another believer. Perhaps I can excuse someone who doesn’t understand what the Bible teaches about being kind, treating others with respect, and loving others more than we love ourselves. But when someone I consider my brother or sister in Christ treats me disrespectfully, it really hurts – and I remember even when I wish with all my heart that I could forget.
Yet, the Scripture is clear that God expects us to forgive those who sin against us. Jesus, Himself, taught: “14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Perhaps, like me, you have said or heard someone exclaim: “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget!” But is that possible? Or does remembering encourage us to rehearse, rehash, and struggle over and over to forgive? As hard as it may seem sometimes to forget wrongs we have suffered, I believe that the key to forgiveness can be found in the power of forgetfulness. But how do we do that? How do we forget?
In all honesty, I know that the choice to forget doesn’t necessarily make it happen. This can be especially true in situations where someone has been gravely injured or hurt by a careless or inconsiderate act of another. But it can also be true as well in seemingly insignificant comments or actions that hurt us. I have learned that to take a step toward forgetting a trespass, I first have to do something with it. I have to deal with it. I do that by taking it directly to my Heavenly Father and talking it over with Him.
- Take our grudges, anger, and any negative thoughts and bring them captive to Christ.
3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Oftentimes when we feel justified for the way we feel, we tend to overlook that our attitudes and thoughts regarding the offense does not conform to Christ’s teachings either. So the first thing we need to do is to talk the whole thing over with God. Our fleshly nature cannot do what only Christ can do in us. In our weakness, He can make us strong and help us through His mercy and grace. “15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
The next step occurs while we’re still on our knees. After talking it over with Him, we surrender it to Him.
- Let go and let God do His work in us.
2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12”2).
We turn the situation over to God along with all the feelings and desires of our hearts. You see, God’s way is not our way. We want to fight back, get even, justify ourselves; but God wants to renew our minds and hearts. He wants us to look more like His Son. As the apostle Peter explained:
“21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
The final step toward forgetting a trespass involves a transformation. God works in us, then uses us to help effect a change in others.
- Pray for those who have trespassed against us.
27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).
When we can genuinely pray for those who have hurt or used us, we model the love and mercy of our Savior. As Jesus continued to tell His followers: “35 But love your enemies, do good,
and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). Every time we remember an unkind word or action, we need to turn it into a prayer for that individual.
This process of surrender actually frees us from the bondage of unforgiveness. When we give our hurt and pain to the only One capable of handling it and allow Him to work in and through us, we discover freedom. We become forgetful people who instead of measuring wrongs and calculating debts, find ourselves extending mercy and grace – just like our Father. There is power in forgetfulness! May we all be forgiving, forgetful, and free!