Forgive. And Forget?

by Don Smith

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I forgive.  But never forget, because I never want to be hurt the same way twice.

Forgive others for what they have done to you. 

This is what we're taught, right? 

Forgive and forget, that's what the Bible teaches, right? 

Not exactly!

The Bible says that God will forgive and forget.  For example Hebrews 8:12 says “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”  

Does that mean he enjoys forgiving?  

I think the story about Jesus talking to the adulterous woman in John 8 addresses this well.  Jesus says “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, Lord.” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus declared.  “Now go, and sin no more.”

Did you catch that?  He does not say “I know you can't stop, go on about your life as you were doing before!”  He says “I don't condemn you, now go, and sin no more.”  He believes this woman has the ability to change her ways, and thus forgives her and gives her a second chance.  He doesn't say “Keep living in your sin.”

If a child comes up and kicks you in the shin, you might forgive them, but you probably don't enjoy getting kicked!  So it is with God.  He does forgive, but don't test his patience by continually kicking him in the shins!

We as humans are called to forgive, but we are not called on to continue to allow ourselves to be abused.  Forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for yourself!

to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover tht the prisoner was you

Let go of the anger.  Do you really think that someone who abused you 10 years ago is any worse off because you are angry at them?  Stop giving them the permission to control your thoughts and forgive them.  Let it go!

That does not mean that you should continue to trust someone who has repeatedly shown they are untrustworthy and allow them to continue to take advantage of you.

Here's a great story illustrating this point.

Girl and the Snake

A young girl walking along a mountain path to her grandmother's house heard a rustle at her feet. Looking down, she saw a snake, but before she could react, the snake spoke to her.

“I am about to die,” he said. “It's too cold for me up here, and I am freezing. There is no food in these mountains, and I am starving. Please put me under your coat and take me with you.”

“No,” the girl replied. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. And if I pick you up, you will bite me and your bite is poisonous.”

“No, no,” the snake said. “If you help me, you will be my best friend. I will treat you differently.”

The young girl sat down on a rock for a moment to rest and think things over. She looked at the beautiful markings on the snake and she had to admit he was the most beautiful snake she had ever seen.

Suddenly, she said, “I believe you. I will save you. All living things deserve to be treated with kindness.”

She then reached over, put the snake gently under her coat and continued toward her grandmother's house.

Within a moment, she felt a sharp pain in her side. The snake had bitten her!

“How could you do this to me?” she cried. “You promised that you would not bite me, and I trusted you!”

“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” he hissed as he slithered away.

If you know someone is a snake, leave them alone!  But don't harbor a grudge against them for the rest of your life, it does no good.  It is a snake's nature to bite, and the anger that is eating you up inside only hurts you and your loved ones. 

Resolve to keep that snake at a safe distance for your own good.  Warn others or contact the authorities if necessary so they don't hurt anyone else, but then forgive them and move on with your life!  You will only truly break free from their control once you forgive and let go of the anger.

If you are truly thinking you would like to take someone back into your life who has harmed you, then you need to ask yourself what has changed?  If the answer is something like they still love me or I still love them, then you're really saying nothing has changed!

If the answer is something like they've joined a group to deal with these issues like AA, are undergoing counseling, and you can see that they are changing by their actions, then that would be a change worthy of consideration.

Regardless of what you may have heard, trust can be rebuilt.  It is a long, slow, and potentially painful process, but it is possible.  If you want to take a deep dive on how to do this and what you should be looking for in someone that is trying to rebuild your trust, check out the book The Speed of Trust:  The One Thing that Changes Everything.

God may forgive AND forget if we seek out his forgiveness, and I think we as humans would be well served to forgive as well.  Forgetting on the other hand?  Maybe eventually, but first I believe we would be well served to verify what has changed to avoid getting hurt over and over.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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