Saturday, March 7, 2009

To Forgive Is Better Than to Forget

Matthew 6:14-15 says:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

My resolution this month is to forgive more fully and immediately. Honestly, I have never had a hard time forgiving, in general, and letting go of anger and disappointment, in particular, but something really struck me as I contemplated this resolution this week.

There is a HUGE difference between being able to "forgive" and being able to "forget" - and forgiveness is MUCH harder when forgetting is impossible. In my own life, the easiest example of this is an experience I had with a job - actually two jobs with similar examples.

1) I once worked as a Training Manager, and one of my primary responsibilities was to lead a certification process that was critical to the success of the company. Part of that process was compiling and systematizing all of the training records. Long story short, I had to resign from my job when I discovered some improper practices with regard to training records required for large contract bids and was told to ignore them.

2) I once worked as a Director at a company for a very short time. I was fired without warning, and the justifications I was given were ludicrous - they simply didn't make any sense, at all, at the time. I found out afterward that the person most intimately responsible for my evaluation had applied for my position before I was hired, and once I was gone she was given my position. Suddenly, it made sense.

What struck me as I thought about forgiveness this month is that there is no way for me to forget these situations and what they did to me. If it simply was a case of letting go, it wouldn't be all that hard for me - but, in each case, I had to find another job. In that process, I had to explain my short employment term in each case - over and over and over again. Literally, there is no way for me to forget - and what initially was quite easy for me to forgive has become less easy to let go, simply because it has been an unavoidable part of trying to find work again.

My only point for now is that we all need to be very careful about judging other people's ability to forgive - particularly based on the assumption that they should be able to forget. I really believe I have forgiven each person who was responsible for each situation, but I realized this week how easy it would be to believe I had forgiven simply by forgetting - then realize I had not when circumstances brought it to memory again.

I think we mix up the order way too much. I think forgetting is NOT the higher law; I would rather forgive and not forget than to forget but not forgive.


Paradox said...

But if Christ no longer remember's someone else's repented of sins, why should we?

I've often wondered if I'll ever forget some of what I've seen because that would be such a blessing to me--to be perfectly unburdened by ALL sin. It's the only way to truly give over all things to Christ. He wants your heart and your mind, the sin and the memory. If we want to be willing to do all things for our God, we have to give Him all of ourselves.

Rosalie Erekson Stone said...

I definitely agree with the title of this post.

As I have pondered the idea of God "remembering our sins no more," it has seemed to me that it is not that God ceases to retain in his all-knowing memory the actual sinful acts or thoughts that we have repented of; but rather that those acts or thoughts are no longer considered by God as sins we are accountable for--because the Atonement has taken effect in our lives.

Alma the younger doesn't seem to ever have "forgotten" his youthful wicked actions; but once he repented and called upon the Lord for forgiveness, he said "my soul is pained no more." (Mosiah 27:29) He later told his son Shiblon, "I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul," but that through Christ's forgiveness, "I did find peace to my soul." (Alma 38:8)

On the other hand, we mortals are commanded to forgive all those who have sinned against us. When we are willing to leave the judgement of the sinner to God, the Atonement allows Christ to heal us now, whether or not the sinner has repented of what he did.

In many cases, although we need to forgive the sins of others, we also need to remember them enough to be on our guard when we have to continue to deal with those who have harmed us in the past.

We are meant to learn through our mortal experiences, and many times we learn valuable lessons through our bad choices, or the pain we suffer at the hands of others. If we totally "forgot" everything we repented of, and every evil act committed against us, we would not continue to grow in the kind of wisdom and understanding that will enable us to better discern good from evil, and live more righteously.

Papa D said...

Paradox, I agree that forgiving AND forgetting is the ideal. What I'm saying, however, is that sometimes it really is impossible to forget - and that forgiveness can happen even when forgetting can't.

RoAnn, you said:

"those acts or thoughts are no longer considered by God as sins we are accountable for--because the Atonement has taken effect in our lives."

I really like that thought, and I translate it kind of as something being erased from the hard drive and no longer being an active document that can be found by anyone but the creator of the system - and she doesn't bother accessing it, so, in practical terms, it's as if it never was written.

Anonymous said...

RoAnn your comments are definitive for me-a wonderful summary of a life lived with forgiveness.Thankyou,and I will be sharing this with my family.

KrizteeTrain said...

I also like RoAnn's comments and would like to add to it: just because we are commanded to forgive does not mean we are commanded to forget.

On a higher level (D&C 58:42) we are told: "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." That's great, but doesn't that mean that he who has not repented of his sins has those sins remembered? I am not saying we should not forgive others who have sinned and not repented, but, on the contrary, we should not forget those sins.

Note: Personally, I would only apply this logic to extreme situations, e.g., someone killed my dog.

KrizteeTrain said...

Sorry--Just typing something to subscribe to any follow-up comments!

SilverRain said...

I think RoAnn's comments are quite accurate. Not only can we sometimes not forget, but in order to learn, we should not forget. We can only safely forget the bad habits and sins of others (and ourselves!) if the person has demonstrated repentance, and even then we cannot completely forget. We must always retain what we have learned. There is a reason that AA introductions always start with "and I'm an alcoholic," no matter how long they have been sober.

chelle said...

Great perspective. I have had alot of time laying around to think a lot. And this has been one of my things I have been thinking about lately. I have something that I thought I had forgiven someone for...but whenever I think about it or am reminded of it, I don't feel a true sense of forgiveness towards the person who did me wrong. This happened many years ago and this person is very near and dear to my heart. I just don't know how to get to the point of forgiving even upon remembering. I guess it will come when I have truely forgiven huh?

Papa D said...

chelle, Have you spoken with this person about it? Is the person aware of the hurt? Do you have any idea if this person is sorry for what happened?

Sometimes, the realization that the person either didn't realize s/he had caused harm and/or that the person truly repented can be a great help in forgiving.