The mind is an amazingly complex thing. I can remember with vivid clarity some silly injustice from kindergarten, but have no clue where my keys are on a daily basis. Given my ability to remember such unimportant things, is it really possible to forgive and forget?
And what if the faithfulness and honesty of a partner is involved? I think the answer is no… and yes.
When we hear the term forgive and forget I suspect we think it means to literally forgive and never think about, remember, obsess over or plot revenge about said incident ever again. Ever! Or at least that was the understanding I used to have. Why on earth did I ever put that much pressure on myself? It is literally impossible to not remember; especially when it involves hurts inflicted by our spouse. Telling yourself not to remember is like trying not to stick your tongue in the hole where a tooth used to be. The harder you try not to, the more you do it.
I have often heard the insecurity in a woman’s voice as she says, “If I’ve truly forgiven, why can’t I forget?” They doubt they have actually forgiven because they aren’t able to forget. I remember that feeling of guilt! I remember feeling that if I was a better Christian I wouldn’t keep thinking about something that I thought I had forgiven. That feeling is exactly what caused me to rethink the way I saw forgiveness altogether.
Life experience has taught me that forgiveness is a choice. It’s something I choose even when I don’t feel like it. And it’s a choice that has to be made over and over. It is a process – not an event. It’s much like the decision to lose weight. When someone decides to lose weight, they aren’t successful by making a one-time decision. It takes lots of decisions everyday to be successful; eat this – don’t eat that – go to the gym. And like forgiving, decisions regarding lasting weight loss are made over and over, day after day.
Over time, as I have continually chosen to forgive all the hurts that came from Steve’s addiction, I have been set free. I have been freed from the guilt of remembering. I have been freed from resentment and bitterness. And oddly enough, I have even been freed from seeing the hurts in a purely negative light. The more time that passes, and the stronger our relationship becomes, I find myself seeing those very hurts as a blessing in disguise. Remembering allows me to see how far we have come.
If you have chosen to forgive, whether the offense was big or little, don’t doubt the sincerity of it. Yes, you will remember from time to time. When you do, give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel in that moment; name it and move on. Then make the choice to forgive all over again and forget, at least until you remember it again.