“I can’t remember to forget you.” This very simple phrase came to mind a few years ago as I struggled with forgiving and forgetting wrongs that I believed that had be done to me by someone with whom I once shared a close friendship. In fact, I remember being bothered because it seemed as though the harder I tried to move on, the more frustrated I became when thinking about what happened. Eventually, I worked my way through this emotional roadblock by reminding myself that it was better for me to spend time and energy working on forgiveness.
Years later, encounters with this same person reminded me of how much God had delivered and protected me from….but to my confusion and surprise, I still kept remembering too many specifics about the painful past with this person. Maybe I was naïve, but I thought that once I made and kept my decision to forgive, I would also eventually forget.
Soon after this, I either participated in or overheard a number of conversations where others were struggling with the same issue. In one specific conversation at a get together, I remember a 40 something year old lawyer saying that he truly wanted to move on from his ex-wife, but simply didn’t know how. In fact, he joked that remembering the info he studied for the State Bar Exam wasn’t as hard as what he was now trying to forgive and forget about his ex-wife.
As I listened to him and others talk about what they were trying to let go of, I kept thinking about the ironic truth in the phrase “I can’t remember to forget you.” I hesitated to bring up this phrase to others because it didn’t seem 100% biblically sound. As Christians, we are taught to forgive others and as we ask others to forgive us (Matthew 6:12 – “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.”). It seems that what’s implied in forgiveness is that we must also make an effort to forget.
However, before I had a chance to say this scripture, someone began to recite song lyrics from the “Sea of Forgetfulness” by Helen Baylor and bible verses like Philippians 3:13: “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus (NKJV) that encourage that “forgetting” is also a part of the process of forgiveness.
Even as some of us hummed the tune to the song “Sea of Forgetfulness,” and agreed that we believed the scripture, we still acknowledged that forgiving was the easy part; it was forgetting that was hard. Much like someone who is on a respirator and are kept alive by the force of the machine, many of us keep painful memories alive by the force and power of unforgiveness. We say we’ve forgiven but out actions and attitudes towards people who have hurt us might show otherwise.
Shewanda Riley is the author of the best seller, Love Hangover: Moving From Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends. She can be reached at email@example.com.