Board index Forgiveness

What does the Bible say about forgiveness? How does forgiveness really work?

If you can't forget are you truly forgiving?

Postby Pam » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:27 pm

People are always saying "I can forgive but I cant forget." I find this very contradicting. If you cant forget are you truly forgiving?

Re: If you can't forget are you truly forgiving?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:07 pm

Here's my take on forgiveness: Forgiveness is choosing to live an injustice, even when the other person repents. A wrong has been committed, and the forgiver chooses to place another injustice on top of it and brush it aside, absorbing the pain—again. Whether or not the offending person sees the wrong and apologizes, the forgiver is offering a gift that is undeserved.

I have come to the conclusion that there are many different kinds of forgiveness, just as there are many kinds of love, different kinds of peace, power, etc. It’s like a continuum, and forgivenesses of different sorts can be found all along the way. For instance, there are many different motives to forgive: fatigue, forgetfulness, apathy, expedience, escape, and love, to name several. Obviously the one motivated by love is the most sublime, and it’s the one the Bible speaks of, just as it often speaks of agape love. But we all know that in real life we don’t love with agape all the time, even though agape is the ideal and the goal. Usually forgiveness is contingent on confession and repentance, but not always so. Sometimes, and again, from various motives, we choose to forgive despite a lack of repentance. There are high and low forms, noble and expedient forms, and even begrudging forms of forgiveness.

As far as forgetting, I think it’s a mistaken notion that forgiveness means forgetting. The forgetting almost never happens. Sometimes you can't "forget." You never forget. For instance, recently I was fired, I think quite unfairly and harshly. I've been unemployed for a year, and my career as a youth pastor is over. Will I ever forget this? I don't think so. Forgiving, in contrast, is absorbing the pain into ourselves and by doing that saying, “It has no power any more.”

Almost all references to forgiveness in the Bible are of God forgiving us for our sins. Those are the sublime kind: that God, out of love, will wipe our slate clean if we repent and turn to Him. The few (maybe a dozen total) of texts about us forgiving each other almost always trace back to “forgive the way God forgave you,” or “as you forgive others, so also you will be forgiven.” They all encourage us to take the high road, but as we know from other situations, God makes allowances for our inadequacies and the hardness of our hearts. It doesn’t make it OK not to forgive, but it does give grace where the high road is not taken.

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