Recently I had a conversation with a friend from another city. He essentially said, “I want to forgive, but how do I forget?” This is a comment lament when the conversation turns to forgiveness. How exactly am I supposed to forget the hurt that has been done to me. We’ve all heard the trite statement,

“You just need to forgive and forget.”

That is usually easier said than done. I once heard someone say it to a rape victim.

Then I started thinking….what if we’re not supposed to forget? What if we can’t? What if remembering is actually a key to forgiving?

Most people that I meet want to forgive but they are unsure how they forgive. We are not sure what it means to actually forgive anyone. Yesterday on my Twitter account, I asked “define forgiveness.”

The answers were all wonderful. One friend told me to forgive is to forget because “that is how God forgives.”

But I’m not God. Neither are you. I’m human. While I believe that is how God forgives, I wonder if in our broken world there isn’t a different way forward for you and I.

I think we often come to the place where we look at our hurt and we think, “If I forgive this person, it means my hurt will go away.” But this isn’t true. Most of the time, we can purpose to forgive someone and the pain is still there. The hurt rears up like a geyser shooting from the deepest depths of our hearts. Pretending that isn’t there will not work.

I think this is the greatest moment of opportunity.

What if forgiveness isn’t forgetting but is rather choosing to care for/love the person in spite of remembering? What if not forgetting isn’t a requirement? What if choosing how we act in spite of how we feel is actually the act of forgiveness?

I think this is an incredibly important distinction because if we choose to move forward in building a relationship with someone who has hurt us in the past, we are going to have to act in ways that go directly against our feelings.

Forgiveness is often a process not an event.

If that is true, then forgetting is not a requirement for forgiveness. Remembering is an involuntary act. It is the same as breathing, you don’t think about it, you just do it. However, we can choose what to do when we remember. Do we choose to fixate on the pain, or on the fact that we are choosing to forgive? Do we turn the hurtful event (events?) over in our mind again and again or do we replace those thoughts with the remembering that we have chosen to forgive?

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