Friday, October 30, 2009

Is Forgive and Forget Biblical?

Those who place emphasis on forgiveness often say one must forget for it to be real forgiveness. This week a woman told me about her struggle to forgive her abusive ex-husband. As soon as she decided to forgive him, the memories of all he had done overwhelmed her. She thought that meant she had not forgiven him. She said it took 2 years for her to be able to forgive and forget. (Yet, she must still be remembering, or she wouldn’t have mentioned it to me—not even from the forgiveness angle.)

I want to know the book, chapter and verse that tells us to forgive and forget.
I checked the concordance, and did not find those words together anywhere. In fact, I find principles that suggest it is unwise to forget. Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12 “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Even though we forgive, it may be stupid to forget.

Consider this unlikely situation: While at work, your boss tells you and a coworker to go to another area of the building. You get on the elevator with your coworker, and she walks in front of you presumably to punch in the number of the floor you are headed for, and with all her weight, steps on your foot with her spiked heel. She apologizes and you forgive her, even though your foot hurts, and when you check it later, you have a bruise. But you put the incident out of your mind.

A week later the boss sends you and your coworker on another mission, and she does the same thing, and again apologizes, calling herself a big klutz. You forgive her again, and berate yourself when you can’t put it out of your mind the first 2 days. “It was just an accident,” you scold yourself, “forget it!”

Two weeks later during another elevator trip with her, you again get your foot nailed by her spike. This time, she apparently lost her balance and fell against you, and her spike landed on the very spot that is still hurting from the last time. You forgive her again.

Now, if you are too stupid to see that this is a pattern you need to make sure you do NOT forget, and that you either need to ride a separate elevator or keep a large briefcase between you and the spike-lady, and that you need to report her to the boss (or to whoever deals with assaults at your workplace), and to the police, you will keep getting hurt by your coworker.

Remembering how other individuals treat us is an important part of making decisions, of staying out of danger. Yet many Christians throw human interpretation of forgiveness at people, and by insisting that they forget, influence them to put themselves in harm’s way.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit

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