Does Forgiveness Mean Forgetting?

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Too often, we think that forgiveness means forgetfulness. It does not. I have heard people say, “I can forgive you, but I will never forget what you did or said to me.” Forgiveness means to put that thing behind you, behind your back so to speak, so you don't see that thing anymore. “Behold, it was for my peace that I had intense bitterness; but You have loved back my life from the pit of corruption and nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17). In other words, God does not rehearse our sins over and over again. Our sins have been totally forgiven, He doesn’t hold them against us, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). This was achieved when Jesus bore ALL of our sins on the Cross at Calvary. He accepted and received the full punishment for every sin. Jesus accepted and received the total judgment of God for every sin past, present, and future in our lives. ALL our sins have been placed behind His back where He cannot see them ever again. 

The Principle for us to apply to our lives is this; it may be impossible for us to forget something that has happened to us, but it is not impossible for us to put that thing behind us so that we do not look at it or rehearse it every day of our lives. 

Sometimes when a person has been hurt by another person, they do their very best to forget so they can forgive, but they can’t. So, they begin to feel like they have failed because they can’t forget. They look for but can’t find “the sea of forgetfulness”  because, “the sea of forgetfulness”  does not exist.

I have heard many refer to “the sea of forgetfulness” as they say something like, “God casts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness.” He does not! The term, “the sea of forgetfulness” is not found anywhere in Scripture. It sounds good. It even sounds reasonable. “The sea of forgetfulness” is one of the good things that man speaks of. But, “the sea of forgetfulness” is NOT a God thing. 

Therefore, people carry double the guilt, double the burden. The accuser comes in, takes advantage of the situation, and says something like this: “You can’t forget, so that must mean you can’t forgive. You are a failure as a person, as a Christian, a spouse, a friend”, etc. A good number of people (because they don’t know any better) agree with satan, the accuser and the accusation — and swallow the lie. This person then finds himself or herself rehearsing the hurtful words that have been spoken to them. The abuse they have experienced is repeated over and over in their mind until a wall is formed around their heart.

Scripture tells us, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). A few years ago I asked the Lord, “What do You mean to forgive, how do I walk that out? Since forgiveness isn’t forgetfulness what does true forgiveness look like?” He gave me this scenario, “If you walk out of your home and a snake bites you, do you forgive that snake for what has come naturally to it? Can you forgive the snake for striking out and biting you? I thought about that, and said, “Yes, because it came naturally to the snake to strike out and bite, I guess I could forgive it. But, what does that look like? Since it did what came naturally by striking out and biting me, I can’t leave it there to do it again. So, what do I do with the snake to carry out forgiveness and not live in fear of being bitten again?” The Lord said, “You have three choices. #1, Kill it. But you must ask yourself, ‘Can I, with good conscience kill that which is not guilty of anything excepting being itself?’ #2, Catch it, place it in a safe place so it cannot strike or bite again, where you can keep an eye on it as you take it as far from your home as will allow you to feel safe, knowing that it cannot find its way back to you again and then you can think of it no more. Or # 3, Place the snake in a cage in your home, where you can see it at all times, where you are in control of both it and yourself, knowing that it will not be able to escape and strike or bite you again. But, by making this choice, realize that the snake still has control over you. It may not be able to strike, however it is controlling you through fear. Fearing you must be on constant watch to be sure it never escapes, thereby relentlessly disturbing your rest. By making one of these three choices, you are setting boundaries for the snake and yourself to live by.” People only do what comes naturally to them. Hurting people, hurt people. As a rule, the pain we receive from others is not personal; it is a result of past hurts in their lives. For many of us, our yesterdays have formed who we are today, rather than believing who God says we are while being transformed into His image.

Boundaries are not walls. Scripture teaches us through Principle that we are not to be “walled off” from others; Jesus prayed, “…so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11). When we have been hurt we have a tendency to close ourselves off, we hold the pain we feel inside; we don’t open up to express ourselves and get that pain out of us, which means, we are not opening up to support from the outside that which will help and heal us.    

Sample Prayers for Forgiveness

Based on Luke 4:18

Lord, You said, You were sent to heal the brokenhearted, to bring Deliverance to the captive, and to set at Liberty them that are bruised. Lord Jesus, my heart has been broken. I feel as though I am being held captive from hurts and abuse; I feel bruised and beat up. I need Your Touch. I am asking You, Jesus, to Heal my broken heart, and Restore Hope within me. Your Hope in me for my future. Please Heal and Release me as only You can, that I may be free to experience Your Joy and Your Peace in my life. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

I thank You, Father, that Your Word is truth. I trust Your Love for me. I know You always have my best interest at heart. Jesus, I choose to forgive_______________ (insert name) for abusing and hurting me. But, I need Your help, Lord. I am unable to forgive on my own. In fact, Lord, I need You to help me to desire to forgive_______________ (insert name). Jesus, please help me to see_______________ (insert name) as you see _______________ (insert name). I thank You for Your Forgiveness of my sins and Your Understanding of my failures. I ask You to give me Your Wisdom and Your Understanding. I am asking You to help me to know what to do and when to do it. Lord, Your Unconditional Love for me is my hope and strength. I choose to trust You with my life. Thank You, Jesus, for giving me Freedom from unforgiveness in my life. Amen.

Based on Philippians 1:9–12 (AMP)

“And I pray: that Your Love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight (that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment), in me. 10) So that I may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value (recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences), and that I may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless (so that with a heart that is sincere and certain and unsullied, I may approach) the day of Christ (not stumbling nor causing others to stumble). 11) May I abound in and be filled with the fruits of righteousness (of right standing with You and right doing) which come through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One), to the honor and praise of my God (that Your glory may be both manifested and recognized in me). 12) Now I desire you to know and continue to rest assured, brethren, that what (has happened) to me (this imprisonment from hurts and abuse) has actually only served to advance and give me a renewed motivation to the (spreading of the) good news (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Be aware that all attributes of The Most High God are capitalized out of love, respect, and reverence for The Trinity. Also be aware that the name satan, related names, and attributes are capitalized. I choose not to acknowledge or exemplify him even to the point of going against grammatical rules.

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