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A to Z Answers: Maybe Memories Maim Us


We know the Bible tells us to forgive those who wrong us. But is it possible to forgive and forget? Can we honestly cast those harmful memories aside and wipe them from our mental or emotional hard drives?

God can.

The Lord promises to remember not the sins He has already cast away in His grace.

“For I will forgive their wickedness
   and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:34b, NIV)

Obviously, the all-knowing Almighty is not forgetful. Unbound by time, He sees the end from the beginning and views all at once. But He chooses not to focus on the faults He has forgiven.

What about us?

Yes, we are called to forgive, just as He does. We know this, even when we don’t practice it so well.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32, NIV)

We may struggle to do this fully, but we know such grace is God’s way.

Still, we may remember harm and pain and wrongs, even after we’ve sincerely forgiven. Do we even possess the ability to erase the evils we may have endured? We may bury painful memories subconsciously, but they can still linger and brew bitterness within the hidden hollows of the human heart.

We could try simply to ignore the ills we have experience, once we’ve extended forgiveness. And God, in His unlimited grace, can free us from the pain and deep destruction those wrongs may have caused. But don’t we recapture our thought patterns, when we are reminded of hurts and hatefulness we may have faced?

Will we forgive ourselves, if we recall forgiven sins?

Maybe this is the real question.

Must we beat ourselves up, if we occasionally remember the sins we’ve endured, or even the ones we have committed? Do our memories negate grace?

Absolutely not.

God’s grace is bigger than our short attention spans.

At the same time, He calls us to withdraw from wallowing and to follow Him onwards. Maybe memories can only maim us, if we linger long enough to let them.

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