In this blog, I am going to present an academic view and a practical perspective, on how the capacity of our memory influences our decisions to forgive and forget an offense that someone has committed against us.
Have you ever thought about how the memories you have concerning an offense influence the decisions you make about forgiving or forgetting?
Ever consider what power your memory exerts over your behaviors, emotions, and thoughts?
If the truth is told, without memory there would be no need to worry about forgiveness, because you would not be able to remember that an offense ever occurred.
What do I mean by that statement?
Well, before I can give insight into the meaning, I must first lay down this foundation:
All memory does is to recall all of our experiences; specifically our past experiences.
MEMORY recalls THE HISTORY OF OUR LIVES
Now here’s the academic view:
The Merriam-Webster dictionary classifies the word memory as a noun and uses a definition that fits our context: It says that:
“Memory is the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms.”
It goes on to say that:
“Memory is the store of things learned and retained from an organism’s activity or experience as evidenced by modification, structure, or behavior or by recall and recognition.”
As this definition implies, memory is the foundation for all learning, conditioning, habits, behaviors, and thoughts.
Without the capacity of memory, you would only know how to live for the moment, and that moment would be a new moment, every moment.
For when that moment was over, without a memory, you would not be able to recall it. It would be gone, non-existent; like it never happened.
But through the process or power of memory, you are able to recall what happened at that moment that had just passed.
You see, memory is needed to bring back to mind those things of your yesterday.
Memory is always past tense, and it is a very critical component of what your present and future tenses can be.
Now consider this interesting insight about “man.”
His experiences of yesterday are the things that influence his here and now; his today.
His yesterday experiences give meaning to his present, here and now, and consequently, help him decide what he has to do in his current situation or in the future.
Therefore “man,” in addition to always learning new things from moment to moment is always in a state of reacting to things or modifying things by recalling past experiences of those things every second of every day of his life.
His world is one of not just continual enlightenment as he relates to those things that are in his environment, or with people whom he interacts, it is a world dominated by present and future decisions that are influenced by past experiences.
“(M)y (E)nlightened (M)ind (O)nly (R)emembers (Y)esterday” …
Is a phrase the Lord gave to me to use for the word “memory.”
Therefore, with regard to forgiveness; when someone offends me, it immediately becomes a historical event one second after it happens.
The incident is then immediately stored in the mind of both the offender and the offended.
It is locked away with all of the particulars that were connected to it; (such as words, emotions, actions, thoughts, sights, smells, sounds, etc.) – all locked away. It is now historical.
It is something that happened in the past. It can never be physically relived, only mentally remembered. It is something that has happened – not something that is happening.
So, thus far, we have successfully laid the foundation that gives meaning to our opening statement which was: If the truth is told, without memory there would be no need to worry about forgiveness because you would not be able to remember that an offense ever occurred.
Therefore, one must rely on the recollection of this historical data in order to bring resolve to the issue of offense. Without this information, without this memory of the offense, no knowledge of an offense would ever exist.
Think for a moment about this precious capacity of memory we have. What a wonderful capacity the Lord has given to us.
It is something we use to remind us of where we have been, what we have done, what we have said, what we have learned;
It is something we use to remind us of where we have failed, where we have succeeded, where we have error, where we have fault;
It is something we use to remind us of where we are strong, where we are weak, where we are vulnerable, what we like and what we don’t like.
I believe with the utmost assurance that the capacity of memory is one of the many vital capacities the Lord has equipped us with for growth and maturation not only as human beings but as Christians.
Let us take a look at another academic view of how the Lord tells us to use this capacity of memory in the area of forgiving and forgetting.
First, let us build another foundation by looking at the definitions of both words – Forgive and Forget
The word “Forgive” is a verb (an action word) that has three definitions which say:
- To cease to feel resentment against (an offender): pardon.
- To give up resentment of or claim to requital.
- To send forth, send away, let go from
The implication of these definitions is that a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision is made to cease to feel resentment; to give up resentment and to let go from oneself.
The word “forget” is also a verb (an action word). BUT we must use its proper form if we are to understand how God uses it in context with the verb forgive. That verb form would be the intransitive form of the verb which says:
To cease remembering or noticing. The implication is that a volitional, purposeful, and intentional choice has been made not to remember or bring to mind the offense.
Now, let us put all of this together.
Memory influences our decisions to grant forgiveness or to forget an offense because it precisely brings to mind the entire travesty of the offense, which could and many times does hinder any of our efforts to resolve and/or reconcile our relationship with the one who has offended us.
As the offender, our memories are of all the precipitating circumstances that brought us to the point of committing the offense.
As an offender, our memories could be of that desire we had for selfish gain at the expense of another; or that desire we had to hurt, harm, or destroy the person because of prideful motivations we had, or maybe our memories are cloudy and confused from an unwitting innocence.
As the offended, our memories are of all the emotional hurt, physical hurt, financial loss, personal violation, betrayal, injustice, anger, disappointment, which we suffered.
Memory recalls these historical facts – brings them to mind, BUT it stops there.
Memory only reminds us of those facts. Memory does not make us act on those historical facts; something else does.
So that brings us to the crossroad. Regardless of whatever perspective we come from (offender or offended), the question is what decisions are we to make concerning the historical facts of the offense, what are we to do?
Now the practical perspective is this:
As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we are to simply be obedient to what Jesus has commanded us to do in the area of forgiving and forgetting an offense.
Even though many will say that there has to be more to it than that, in reality, for the born-again believer, it is the only practical answer.
And just how is that played out?
As the one who was offended – you must make a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision to choose to forgive and let go from yourself the feelings of resentment toward the offender (when you have had your heart healed and restored by the Lord), and to also volitionally, purposefully, and intentionally choose to biblically forget by not bringing the offense to mind.
As the one who did the offense – you must make a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision to go and be reconciled to the person you have offended by confessing your guilt and asking for their forgiveness.
Understand that reconciliation can only come from the offended, not the offender.
The syntax is: “go and be reconciled”, not “go and reconcile” – Matthew 5:23.
You might be saying right now: That is not the answer. Elder, you have no clue.
Well, you are 100% correct. As a human being, I have no clue, BUT my creator and Lord does. He has the just, righteous, and holy answer.
To the offended: He tells you in Matthew 6:14-15 –
“that if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
To the one who offended someone: He tells you in Matthew 5:23-24 –
“that if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
You see after all the emotions have died down and you have returned to your ability to think rational thoughts, then as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you are left with only one thing to do and that is to obey what Jesus has commanded.
You are to forgive and forget offenses committed against you as the Lord has commanded you, even though the knowledge of the historical facts are locked away in the memory banks of your mind.
And those facts will always be there because they are facts that actually occurred. But it should be your heart’s desire to do what God has commanded if you are born-again.
“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13)
- Stores all of our past experiences.
- Reminds us of those experiences.
- Reminds us also of what the Lord has commanded us to do, especially in the area of forgiving and forgetting an offense.
- Reminds us also of the love, grace, and mercy of our Father in heaven and what He has done for us in forgiving our sins and reconciling us back to Himself.
So now you can see what role memory plays in our decision making.
MEMORY ONLY ACTS AS A REMINDER OF WHAT HAPPENED
The heart is what motivates us to do in response to our memory. And our heart’s desire should always be to honor the Lord and bring glory to His precious name by following His command to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.
So, take some time and marinate on this instructional message and I pray that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Amen