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“FORGIVE AND FORGET” – IS IT POSSIBLE?

29 Oct

By Terry Loving

“It hurts too much to forgive.”

Years ago, I taught a ladies Bible class on the subject of “forgiveness.” The most memorable moment of that day was the objection by the Minister’s wife. I made this statement, “When you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that you have to interact with them.” She did not agree. In fact, the Minister’s wife said, “If we do not fellowship with or be around the person we forgave, then that means that we have not truly forgiven them. Well, of course I had to defend my position, and I still stand by it today.

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There are many misconceptions concerning forgiveness, and to “forgive and forget” is one of them. Unless you are brain dead, physically dead, or have the ability to wipe out your memory completely – you will most likely remember some painful event, especially when sinned against as a child. As an adult, you may have forgiven your uncle for molesting you when you were seven-years old, but you will never forget the happening.  Your growing up was “interrupted,” and you are left with confusion, pain, anger, memories, hurt – a lot of feelings that you are unable to process without professional help. Even then, you may never get over being molested – you were betrayed by someone you trusted. The feelings about yourself will most likely be those of inferiority, and you may struggle with self-esteem and self-acceptance.

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Your uncle may have your forgiveness, but he has lost your trust. As an adult, you are always uncomfortable around him, and you vow to never leave your children alone with him – ever! Does this mean that you have not truly forgiven him? – Not at all. The precautions mean that he is a child-molester and not to be trusted. Child molesters rarely change, if ever. Forgiveness does not equal blind trust. It does not erase the past, nor should everyone pretend that nothing ever happened.

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Domestic abusers often beg for forgiveness, and many times they are forgiven – over, and over again. When the abused cannot take the abuse anymore and leave the relationship, the abuser accuses them of being unforgiving. The real truth is the abusers have not truly repented! If the abuser truly repents, and the relationship isn’t beyond repair, then the forgiveness should allow for healing with counseling and whatever else it would take to make the relationship whole. Unfortunately, most abusers are not sincere with their fake apologies and tears. If they were truly sorrowful, the “honeymoon stage” would not exist.

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 While writing this post, it is difficult not to include some of my own life’s story. When I was a “busy” person, there wasn’t much time to reflect on my past. My first time being laid off from work is when God revealed things to me, and I began a journey of inner reflection. Many people stay “busy” to keep from thinking and feeling, but we do ourselves an injustice especially when there are life issues we should address. In my case, I did not realize that I was covering up pain with work, school, relationships, worship, friends, hobby’s, etc. I thought I was living, but I was missing key information that kept my soul angered. Solitude is a necessary journey.

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As far as abuse goes, I take some responsibility for those relationships that went wrong. The violence and mistreatment were the sole responsibility of the abusers; my part was ignorance concerning red flags. I never thought that I would need to educate myself about domestic violence, for I saw the madness that happened to my mother and her friends as being “their issue.” I knew what to look for after the fact, but not before allowing myself to get involved with an abusive man.

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I can forgive my abusers, especially now that they are deceased, (not by my hands). When they were alive, I just stayed away from them, and decided that they were bad company and there was no need for friendships. I forgave, but chose to keep my distance. Did that mean I did not truly forgive them – not at all. Wrong-doing has consequences. I chose not to be bitter, but I never forgot what happened during those abusive moments. I chose to not listen to another, “I’m sorry.” Forgive and forget? – You never mentally forget.

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Is it possible that we find it difficult to forgive others because we think forgiving amounts to a pardon that erases their offense completely? Do we think that once forgiveness is extended their offense magically disappears as if it never happened? Is it possible that we withhold forgiveness because we still experience pain while we think our offenders will go free – live happy lives while we are miserable?  After all, why should we carry a burden we did not ask for? We were sinned against, so why should we pardon offenders when we were just children trying to grow up? Wives trying to be the best mates they could be to an abuser? Husbands who gave their all and still their wives hated and verbally abused them. Why should we forgive what we feel is unforgivable?

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Before I state reasons why we should forgive, I repeat – “You will never forget.” There will always be triggers, a movie – a comment – a song – painful experiences others share, etc. Something will always remind you of the traumatic experience(s) that you try to forget. You will remember them for they will make you a “different” person from the person you long to be. You will have inner struggles, emotionally and you will have highs and lows when it comes to happiness. This may not be the case for everyone, but it happens to most people. Abuse changes a person from the inside out.

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On a personal note, I find myself having to forgive my mother over and over again. Whenever I come to the conclusion that she was a wreck, I forgive her. Then again, as repressed memories surface, I am angry and appalled all over again. So I find myself on this crazy cycle of anger, forgive, remember, anger, forgive and it may always be this way. The most important thing is to not allow myself to become bitter. I will mention this again in a few.

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Why should we forgive? Because if we expect and hope for forgiveness of our own trespasses, we must forgive people of theirs:

14“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Geneva Study Bible

{4} For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

(4) They that forgive wrongs, to them sins are forgiven, but revenge is prepared for them that take revenge.

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I interpret the “forgive and forget” concept this way. You will never mentally forget, but the forgetting should involve not holding a grudge to the point of seeking revenge. When offenses remain at the forefront of our thoughts, we cannot see our way clearly to release our pain into the Hands of a loving Father. Instead, we become bitter, angry with God, and unleash our pain onto those who are closest to us. We want blood!

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We become angry with God and discount the fact that we live in a fallen world, ruled by the god of this world. Yes, God saw what happened to you, to me, to everyone that was sinned against, and will be sinned against. Surely He will avenge:

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”

Deuteronomy 32:35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

Our responsibility is to forgive – release the pain, and trust that God will heal our wounds so that we can move on. We are admonished to not allow bitter roots to grow within our hearts.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;”

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

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Wesley’s Notes

“4:31 Let all bitterness – The height of settled anger, opposite to kindness, ver.32. And wrath – Lasting displeasure toward the ignorant, and them that are out of the way, opposite to tenderheartedness. And anger – The very first risings of disgust at those that injure you, opposite to forgiving one another. And clamour – Or bawling. I am not angry, says one; but it is my way to speak so. Then unlearn that way: it is the way to hell. And evil speaking – Be it in ever so mild and soft a tone, or with ever such professions of kindness. Here is a beautiful retrogradation, beginning with the highest, and descending to the lowest, degree of the want of love.”

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“Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.” Job 21:25

Forgiveness is for our own good, so that we can go on with our lives. Bitterness of soul robs us of the opportunity to begin our lives afresh, on our own terms. Those who sinned against us were unable to take away our free will. We still have the opportunity to choose – be healed, or continue to be angry which leads to bitterness. You will live, but “never having enjoyed anything good.”

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New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (to be moved, or to fall)

Forgiveness on our part is a releasing. Only God can truly forgive our transgressions:

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25

Again in Hebrews 8:12:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

“4. If people are ever pardoned, they must come to God – and to God alone. They must come, not to justify themselves, but to confess their crimes. And they must come with a willingness that God should pardon them on just such terms as he pleases; at just such a time as he pleases; and solely with a view to the promotion of his own glory. Unless they have this feeling, they never can be forgiven, nor should they be forgiven.”  Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

Not everyone will repent of wrong deeds. Because abusers move on with their lives without righting a wrong, they erroneously conclude that what was done is done, and no there is need to look back. However, a day of reckoning is coming:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

Also, Matthew 12:36:

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”

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In conclusion, take back the essence of you, your power and sanity from your abuser(s). Spending time wondering if they will ever be punished is a waste of precious life. If we wallow in pity and anger, abusers win – and they still have power over our lives. I admonish myself when I feel like giving up that “I cannot let them win.” Besides, I don’t know how to give up, God has placed a gift and talents within my soul. I enjoy employing them, especially to help others. I can never figure out what I would do if I gave up anyway. I conclude that quitting life is not my destiny. God does not desire failure for your life as well.

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 My mother is deceased, so I cannot ask her, “Why?” Perhaps God in His infinite Wisdom waited until she died to reveal many things to me. On the one hand I am glad that I cannot confront her, for I would not want to dishonor God by dishonoring her, although my pain says she deserves it. So I press along, looking forward with hope, and walking with Hope. Some glad morning, a new day will dawn, and God shall wipe away my pain. Until then, God soothes my soul when I help others in His name.

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I have learned to detach from this world, and in many cases – not voluntarily. Therefore, I am at peace in spite of the memories that I wish to forget. Serving my Lord is more important to me than the things that happened in my life. My Father promised a reward, and that is what comforts me. I will never forget, but I forgive trespasses as I ask that God forgives mine.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Peace be unto you.

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“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”  Matthew 16:27

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

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WILL GOD PUNISH MY ABUSER?

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Why Do Victims Start To Mirror Their Abuser’s Behavior?

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HE BEATS ME – BUT HE IS A GOOD MAN!

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http://spiritual-side-of-domestic-violence.org

 

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7 Comments

Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 responses to ““FORGIVE AND FORGET” – IS IT POSSIBLE?

  1. wildninja

    October 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Interesting post. I’ve been up against the dangerous legalism in the church that says you should have contact with your abuser. That’s insane. You can forgive someone and not have contact with them. You can forgive someone and have boundaries. It’s not God’s will for you to put yourself or your family members in harm’s way. Besides, being close to an abuser likely means you’ll get hurt (or worse) again. It gives them a way to try to control you.

    Don’t listen to those people. It is more important that you and yours are safe than reestablishing contact with a dangerous person. You can forgive from a distance.

     
    • ssofdv

      October 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Hello wildninja,

      I totally agree with you. When one leaves domestic abuse, healthy boundaries should be set in place to keep those harmed from further trauma. Abusers do not change for the most part. It is very rare, and no one can predict who will or who won’t change. And they certainly cannot change on their own.

      Religious “legalism” does much harm, especially when carried out in ignorance of the Word of God. People who have not walked in the shoes of the abused have no clue as to what was suffered. Christianity is not a nice neat package all wrapped up with a Christmas bow.

      We have spiritual enemies in wicked high places, and too many “Christians” embrace a feel good religion, and are blinded to evil. God says we are to forgive “from the heart.” He never said that we had to be in the company of evil in order to prove that we have forgiven those who harm us. I read just the opposite in His Word.

      I agree with you again, “It is more important that you and yours are safe than reestablishing contact with a dangerous person. You can forgive from a distance.”

      Thank you for your comment.
      Peace

       
  2. eahill58

    October 30, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Thank you, very interesting,its almost like you read my mind! My Ex husband has told me and others that i have not really forgiven him, and this is because? I am not able to forget! Friends have challenged me with this too, but when i explained that i wish him no ill,i just dont want to be around him, they knew i had. I think God does not expect us to put ourselves in danger by being around the Abuser again,He wants us to learn from our experiences.Domestic violence is not like a different sin where someone dis-respects you, or steals, or lies.Most of the ones who ‘judge’ us as not ‘forgiving’ have never been throught it anyway, so what the hell do they know anyway!

     
    • ssofdv

      October 30, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Hello eahill58,

      You are quite welcome!

      I really do not understand humanity sometimes. Why would anyone want you to go back to a dangerous situation? But this is nothing new; it has always been this way – pushing the abused towards the abuser as if she is his savior or something. They want you to go back because the abuser got into their heads with his lies, and convinced them that he is not a bad person. Or, they have no idea what a good man is all about.

      No, God does not expect us to be around “bad company.” Besides, how does being abused glorify our Father? How can you witness to someone about the love of Christ with a black eye? Yes, we must learn from our mistakes and experiences and move on. Abusers rarely change. When you go back it gets worst, for now they are angry that you left them, and they will never let you forget it.

      Stay strong!
      Peace

       
      • eahill58

        October 31, 2012 at 4:28 am

        Violent relationships do not glorify God,one Pastors wife who i told that i was terrified of my husband said’ In Him there is no fear at all’….so if i fear my Husband i am not really in Him, so dangerous…they were part of the ‘church’ that almost worship marriage, and you stay with your husband no matter what.The church i have had to leave after 15 yrs,(different one), has embraced my Ex,hes been baptised, and i even heard he was giving a young couple relationship advice!!!!!…He is claiming to be ‘born again’, and a truly changed man!! and this is probably the third time,over the years he has come to where i worship, and claimed to be a ‘new man’, when he first started coming last year,i went to the door of the church all unaware and the nice lady on the door said, ‘ i have to warn you your Ex-husband is there’ i fainted, was taken round to the side door, and looked after until i felt better,then the nice lady said ‘ it would be wonderful to see some reconciliation’….i bit my tongue, and never went back again!!!

         
      • ssofdv

        October 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

        Hello eahill58,

        I am sorry to hear of your experience, mainly because you were not able to find a place to worship in peace. And I agree, “Violent relationships do not glorify God.”

        If “well-meaning” Christians would only read and study the Bible for themselves, they would be in a better position to offer Biblical instruction. Instead, many offer their own interpretation of the Word, and further confuse those who are seeking God. They offer their feelings and opinions and not truth. The response of the Pastor’s wife was foolish. She dismissed your feelings and concerns.

        It is also common for church folk to try to keep a marriage together, even if the wife is being abused. I do not understand this reasoning at all. But then again I do, they do not read and understand God’s Word. God hates violence, especially among His people.

        As far as your ex-husband is concerned – sounds like although an “ex” he is still trying to control your life in some way. He is in the ear of those who can be manipulated to make you feel guilty for not taking him back. “Reconciliation” without true repentance and change is very dangerous. And these changes do not take place just because an offender gets baptized and teaches a class. It takes time, if it ever happens.

        It is my hope that you will find a safe place to worship in peace if that is your desire. Thank you for sharing your feelings.
        Peace

         

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