Forgive and Forget

With the story of the Prodigal Son Jesus teaches us about forgiving others
With the story of the Prodigal Son Jesus teaches us about forgiving others

So yesterday I got a little stomach bug so I decided to stay home today and rest.  My stomach is still feeling pretty tender but I’ve had some improvement. Since I missed church I gave myself a mini-sermon.

Jesus famously told his disciples “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (Matt 6:14).  On first glance it can seem like we have it harder than the Lord.  We have to forgive everyone.

President Kimball said “Since forgiveness is an absolute requirement in attaining eternal life, man naturally ponders: How can I best secure that forgiveness? One of many basic factors stands out as indispensable immediately: One must forgive to be forgiven”

One must forgive to be forgiven…Powerful words.  But it can feel so hard.

President Kimball admits it is hard “Hard to do? Of course. The Lord never promised an easy road, nor a simple gospel, nor low standards, nor a low norm. The price is high, but the goods attained are worth all they cost. The Lord himself turned the other cheek; he suffered himself to be buffeted and beaten without remonstrance; he suffered every indignity and yet spoke no word of condemnation. And his question to all of us is: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?” And his answer to us is: “Even as I am.”

So if our goal is to be like Christ and make it back to our Heavenly Father than we must forgive.

But what about forgiving and forgetting? I have long puzzled with the concept of forgetting and I’ve sat through a lot of Relief Society meetings where the topic was hotly debated.  Some swear forgetting is possible and required for exaltation.  Others say that forgiving and moving on is all we can do.

I’m inclined to agree with the latter.  I’ve always felt it was impossible to truly forget one’s life experiences.  In fact, the act of trying to forget can bring it all the more to our remembrance.  Its like when someone says ‘don’t think of a purple elephant’.  What do you think of?  A purple elephant of course.

Well I was reading an interesting web md article about the physical effects of forgiveness on the human body.  They address this idea of forgetting in a way I could relate to:

“Despite the familiar cliche, ‘forgive and forget,’ most of us find forgetting nearly impossible,” says Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, PhD…”Forgiveness does not involve a literal forgetting. Forgiveness involves remembering graciously. The forgiver remembers the true though painful parts, but without the embellishment of angry adjectives and adverbs that stir up contempt.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?  Forgiveness involves remembering graciously and without the angry adjectives of contempt.  That seems doable to me.  You remember the event but let go of the anger and hurt.

Dr Witvliet goes on

“That type of angry “embellishment,” as Witvliet calls it, seems to carry serious consequences. In a 2001 study, she monitored the physiological responses of 71 college students as they either dwelled on injustices done to them, or imagined themselves forgiving the offenders.

“When focused on unforgiving responses, their blood pressure surged, their heart rates increased, brow muscles tensed, and negative feelings escalated,” she says. “By contrast, forgiving responses induced calmer feelings and physical responses. It appears that harboring unforgiveness comes at an emotional and a physiological cost. Cultivating forgiveness may cut these costs.”

Isn’t it interesting how connected the human body is to mental anguish?  Like the ad says ‘depression hurts’.  It can be painful to be angry, frustrated, anxious etc.

So how do we ‘remember graciously’? President Kimball says, “It must be a purging of feelings and thoughts and bitternesses. Mere words avail nothing.”  That seems like a good place to start- when the angry thoughts come send them away.  The more you do it the less they will taunt you.

President Kimball also tell us that when we fail to forgive we are assuming God’s role as judge and jury on the other person.  “To be in the right we must forgive, and we must do so without regard to whether or not our antagonist repents, or how sincere is his transformation, or whether or not he asks our forgiveness. We must follow the example and the teaching of the Master, who said: “… Ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.” (D&C 64:11.) But men often are unwilling to leave it to the Lord, fearing perhaps that the Lord might be too merciful, less severe than is proper in the case”

I like that last line.  I have felt that way from time-to-time.  That Heavenly Father would be too nice to the person who hurt me.  You want revenge and for the other person to feel the same degree of pain you experienced.  But the truth is that bitterness and anger only hurt the person holding the thoughts, not the perpetrator of the offense. That is why God commands us to forgive ALL men and women.  He wants us to be happy.

It seems to me we all expect to be easily forgiven by others but than struggle to extend them the same courtesy. And perhaps the notion of ‘forgetting’ makes forgiveness seem too daunting a task.  I know I’ve felt that way on occasion.  In some cases truly forgetting the behavior would be the opposite of what the Lord wants us to do.  For instance, a woman being abused should not hold bitterness and anger towards her abuser but she should also seek to remove herself from the situation.  Forgetting and going back to the abuser would not be a wise thing to do.

Plus, some hurts we have in life are not sealed events.  Some have potential for continual hurt.  I’ve felt that at times.  I think I’ve forgiven and then a fresh wound would occur.  Trying to forget seems to overwhelming to do on a day-after-day basis.  ‘Remembering graciously’ doesn’t seem so bad.

So don’t worry about forgetting.  Leave that on the Lord’s shoulders.  If we can do it the atonement will work with us and make us better, more sanctified people.

President Kimball again:

“In the midst of discordant sounds of hate, bitterness and revenge expressed so often today, the soft note of forgiveness comes as a healing balm. Not least is its effect on the forgiver.

I’m going to work on forgiveness and trying to turn my burdens over to the Lord for His “yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light.”

What do you all think about forgiving and forgetting?  (Sorry for the somewhat rambling post.  Was just working things out while I wrote)

3 thoughts on “Forgive and Forget

  1. I came to your blog through Pinterest and I am so glad I found it. Your comments on forgiveness are just what I have been saying to my children for quite some time now. I agree with not forgetting because it keeps us from making the same mistakes, but we do need to forgive, and it isn’t up to us for the final ‘punishment’. It is up to our Heavenly Father. You seem to be such a happy, well-rounded person. I feel I came to your blog as an answer to prayers. I have a daughter who is very lonely and need friends. I wish she had a friend like you, someone who could encourage her to look for the good in situations and not always see the bad. I know this probably seems very strange to you, but could you please check out my blog to see that I am really a ‘normal’ person, then contact me privately through my email address. I need your advice for my daughter.
    http://justmythoughts-grandma.blogspot.com/

    1. Here’s a small world. Lori, I know your daughter Nancy. We went to the same mission. I can’t even begin to understand all she goes through with Tyler. The blessing and burden of caring for a special needs child would be overwhelming. I get the feeling she is on constant survival mode and that is tough.

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