If I am ever in doubt as to what I should do….it would be good to keep this in mind.
“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
― Lewis B. Smedes
“Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts we Don’t Deserve” by Lewis B Smedes, is probably the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of forgiveness.
The impact it had on my life was a sense of freedom and release from the bondage of the inability to forgive. I knew that it was the right thing to do, and I would often get to the point where I thought I could forgive, and then I would stop.
Nope! in my mind, I didn’t want to give the other person the privilege of my forgiveness. I wanted them to feel the pain that I had felt! Maybe even more!
The reality of it is this, it just doesn’t work like that.
Anyone who is cruel enough to cause pain and not ask for forgiveness after the fact, does not feel any guilt or pain by our resistance to forgive them. Their life goes on, and they probably continue in the same vein of hurting others.
They are not even giving a second thought to the deed done to me. But my life becomes consumed by unhealthy emotions. I become conflicted with my own guilt over the unwillingness to forgive, and the bitterness and anger caused by the hurt and the pain.
I learned that the act of forgiveness does not mean that I can or should forget, nor is it required of me to forget. However, forgiveness is still required. It doesn’t mean that I never experienced the pain and the hurt, and it doesn’t mean that I will never remember it again. What it means is that I have made the choice to forgive.
And in choosing to forgive, I move forward with new hope and peace in my heart. I can’t excuse, tolerate or forget, I can only forgive. And in forgiving, I am released from the bondage of guilt and bitterness.
(Interesting note, Lewis B Smedes died on this day in 2002. I had no knowledge of this until today. I am thankful for his insight into a very painful subject. He certainly had an impact on my life.)