Six years ago my then-wife said to me the most devastating words you can say to your spouse:
“I don’t love you anymore.”
A year later I received papers in the mail and at 28 years old, I was divorced. I was broken beyond anything I had ever experienced. Over the next couple of years I would learn what it means to both forgive her and myself. But was I really supposed to forgive AND forget?
I recently read an article titled “Can you force yourself to forget?“. It talks about the psychology of repressed memory and discussed the possibility of actively suppressing unwanted memories. It seems there are mixed results in determining if this is actually possible but many think the studies are worthwhile.
Ultimately, attempting to suppress a memory is a coping mechanism. I don’t believe you can both forgive AND forget. Not by suppressing, anyways. If you’ve forgotten or suppressed a memory, your forgiveness is pretty much irrelevant.
But there is a difference between forgetting and choosing not to remember.
We can both actively remember and choose not to remember. There’s a verse in the Bible that says “love keeps no record of wrongs” (2 Cor. 13:5). If forgiveness is removing the blame of an offense, then you have actively chosen not to keep score. That’s different from forgetting it ever happened.
God gives us the prime example of how this works. A verse in Hebrews says God does not remember our sin (Heb. 8:12). It doesn’t say He forgets, it says that He chooses not to remember.
I used to think that if God is omniscient (all-knowing), how can He forget what I did? But He doesn’t really forget. He just chooses not to remember.
I haven’t forgotten about my first marriage. I didn’t suppress those memories but I have chosen not to remember the pain. By forgiving, I have removed the blame and chosen not to keep a record of wrongs. This was something I can only do by His grace.
I realized that true forgiveness isn’t forgetful, it’s supernatural.