How do you Forgive when You Can’t Forget?


Forgiveness is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Not a haha funny, but an interesting funny.

Recently I ran into someone that I hadn’t seen in a few years.

I thought I had forgiven them.

It’s not like I really think much about this person.

Yet when I saw them–that “feeling” began to come up. You know that feeling.

The one that makes your stomach tense and pressure begins to rise up in your chest.

I didn’t expect to feel this way.

The offense happened several years ago and wasn’t actually targeted at me, but at a family member.

Had I truly not forgiven?

As I got back in my car I tried sorting through my thoughts, hoping to pinpoint where these feelings were coming from. As I began talking to God, I realized what was happening.

Sometimes we think we’ve let go of things, but in actuality, we stuffed them deep down inside and forget they were there….until we see the person again.

It’s amazing how fast that thing can come back up!

The bible tells us to forgive, just as our Father in heaven has forgiven us.

Clearly we want to be obedient.

But let’s face it, there are times when forgiving is excruciating. The scenario of what was done to us (or a loved one!) replays in our minds over and over, preventing us from “forgetting”.

Although I hadn’t thought about his person in a while, there was a time when I was caught in the replay cycle.

I had played the offense so often in my head that I actually never let it go.

The person was out of sight, so the offense was out of my mind, but not my heart.

When I saw them again the hurt came bubbling back up, causing me to relive the situation. Once again, I was having a hard time forgetting the pain this person put my family through.

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How do you Forgive when You Can’t Forget?

Lay Down the Hurt

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22 NLT

When we are hurt by someone else’s words or actions, we usually have a long list of demands that we feel will rectify the situation.

We may want an apology, an explanation or even an action.

Yet none of these things will actually bring healing.

Laying the hurts down before Him is crucial for us to forgive. Crucial.

So how do we lay down those hurts to Him?

Every time we think of that situation or that hurt, we can pray. Here is a sample prayer I have had to pray many times when trying to forgive:

The first, second or even third time you pray this, nothing may change. But the more you release them to God, the more healing will come. As you lay these things at His feet, He will take care of you.

Remember How Much You’ve Been Forgiven

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. Matthew 6:14-15 NLT

When we are hurt, our natural desire is to make the person “pay” for what they’ve done.

Through our words or actions we usually choose to confront or isolate.

Yet we often forget the choice of extending grace.

We can do this knowing that we have received much grace from God. As I researched the word “forgive” in this verse, I found a very interesting definition.

forgive– aphiēmi- Strongs G863- to send away, to let go, give up a debt or forgive

When we forgive someone, we actually give up our right for revenge.