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Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
—Psalm 103:12

Some people wrongly believe that forgiveness is synonymous with forgetting. We say, “Forgive and forget.” And we think, “If I forgive somebody, then I have to forget what they have done to me.”

Now, the good news is when God forgives us, He does forget. The Bible says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). And God says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34 NASB). That doesn’t mean when God forgives, He contracts a case of divine senility. God is saying that He no longer holds our sin against us when He forgives us.

But when we tell people that in order to forgive someone they have to forget the offense, we are asking them to do something that is impossible. You see, forgiveness is a spiritual action, but forgetting is a biological action. We do people a disservice when we say, “Unless you forget, you truly haven’t forgiven.” Forgiveness and forgetting are not the same thing. In fact, trying to forget what people have done to you can short-circuit the forgiveness process. People say, “I am not going to think about what that person did to me. I will just pretend it never happened.” That is not forgiveness. In fact, you can do yourself great harm by doing that. You have to go through the right steps in order to properly forgive somebody.

In the 1970s, Amy and I purchased a home. Back then, interest rates were up to 21 percent. We assumed a note on the first mortgage, but we had to get a second mortgage. Our broker encouraged us to find a friend or relative to loan us the money at a more reasonable rate. So I asked my granddad if he would help us with our second mortgage, and he agreed to loan the money to us for 10 percent. We had a formal note executed, and every month Amy and I sent a payment to my granddad. One day he said, “You have been faithful to do this for eight years. I’m going to forgive the note.” Boy, we were elated. About two years later he died, and we decided to sell our home. The problem was, the bank said, “We don’t have any record that this note was forgiven.” My granddad overlooked what we owed him, but he hadn’t gone through the proper steps to release us from that debt. And it is the same way when you try to forgive another person. You have to go through the proper steps to forgiveness.

There are definite steps to forgiving somebody. We have to admit that somebody has wronged us. We have to acknowledge that our offender owes us for his transgressions. And then we have to decide to release our offender from his debt to us.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living without Relationship Regrets” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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