Forgive and forget.
Two choices that carry equal measure of importance and difficulty.
Why do they seem to go hand-in-hand? Why not just forgive OR just forget?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had the super-power to turn on “selective amnesia,” to forget the really bad hurts in our life? To be able to simply turn them off like they never even happened.
In some instances why don’t we?
Why not be like trees?
(Just hear me out…)
Have you ever considered that trees are masters of letting go? Every winter they shed off their dead leaves and send them raining down to the ground or into the wind, without a second thought. What no longer serves them is let go and they wait for spring to fill their branches with glorious budding green leaves and stunning blooms bursting with new life. This “rebirth” wouldn’t be possible if they were still clinging to the dead (past)- there would be no room for the new growth.
Isn’t that true with us?
Alyson Noel said it best; “The only thing a person can ever really do is keep moving forward. Take that big leap forward without hesitation, without once looking back. Simply forget the past and forge toward the future.”
A great example of this philosophy can be found in the Biblical character, Joseph. If you are unfamiliar with his story it can be found in the book of Genesis. A story of such extreme family dysfunction it would rival any modern day soap opera! A family story of favoritism, jealousy, contemplated murder, lies, deceit, slavery, slander and false imprisonment. However, it is also a story of redemption, forgiveness and forgetting.
Joseph was “Daddy’s favorite” and his brothers hated him. Hated him so much that they contemplated killing him but, decided to sell him into slavery instead and pass off the story that he was killed by wild animals.
Joseph spent the next 13 years banished from his home. He was enslaved and then imprisoned after being falsely accused of rape by his master’s wife.
13 years of servitude neglect and abuse.
13 years to stew over the past, to replay what his family had done.
13 years to break his spirit and cause hatred and bitterness to take root in his heart!
Yet, at the age of 30, he was freed and became the second most powerful man in the country- second only to Pharaoh. Thanks to his strong faith in God and his stellar character displayed through adversity.
Joseph was so powerful, that years later, he found himself in a position to hold his brothers accountable for their terrible crimes. Due to a crippling famine in the land his brothers were forced to come to Egypt in search of food and supplies. They appeared before the Vizier (Joseph) seeking help. Joseph immediately recognized them but did not disclose his true identity. Instead, Joseph sets out to learn more about his family and to have his youngest brother Benjamin brought to the palace. When Benjamin finally arrives Joseph shocks everyone by revealing his identity and reassuring them that what they meant for evil God meant for good!
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20
Joseph forgave them.
Don’t minimize this action- forgiveness isn’t just a one time thing, rather a lifetime event.
Before his brothers ever appeared in his court, Joseph had about 22 years to wrestle with forgiveness.
Yet, he made the decision to forgive.
He also made the decision to forget.
We know Joseph completed this second step when he named his firstborn child, Manasseh, which in Hebrew means “causing to forget.”
“Joseph named the oldest son Manasseh, “because,” he said "God has helped me forget all of my troubles and everyone in my father's household."- Genesis 41:51
He decided to forget the past pain caused by his family of origin and instead focused on the new life in his son. Joseph decided to break the cycle of dysfunction and embrace the future.
He chose selective amnesia and was able to overcome because he forgave AND forgot!
You see they really do go hand-in-hand- just like the shedding of the leaves making way for new growth.
Forgive those that have wronged you, forget the past and embrace the future.
Because rebirth, growth and healing are in the process!
Father, may you grant us to ability to forgive others and to realize that forgiveness is not a one-time event rather a life-long journey of having to forgive time after time, hurt after hurt. May you also grant us the power to forget; trusting in you that we can shed the past hurts and make room for the new growth and healing that only you can bring into our lives. We are placing our safety and health in your hands to salve the scars of our hurts and give amnesia to us so that we may forget the past and only focus on the brightness of the future.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” -Colossians 3:13