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Obviously, God does forgive and forget. The question then is, don’t I want to become more like God? And if so, doesn’t that mean I should eventually forgive as He does?

But how do spouses forget their partner’s unfaithfulness? How does a parent forget about the child who was murdered? Or how does an adult forget about the abuse he or she experienced as a child? Try as we may, we can’t forget. We may want to forget, but we really shouldn’t forget.

David Stoop, Forgiving what You’ll never Forget, Page 27

Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another #shorts post.

I’m now reading through a great little Christian book about Forgiveness. It’s called Forgiving what You’ll never Forget, by David Stoop. It’s a book about Forgiving the worst atrocities; Forgiving the unforgiveable offenses in our lives.

I’m always, always on the lookout for new Wisdom and insight on the topic of Forgiveness. I can never learn enough about it; even if I lived 500 years, I would still never know enough about it. This is because Forgiveness is one of the toughest things we ever have to do in our whole life. One reason that’s the case is because Forgiveness is so unnatural.

Our natural instincts are to get revenge, and there’s a reason for those instincts. Those instincts are linked with our survival, as well as our innate sense of Justice and fairness. That second part needs no explanation, I’m sure. Any time someone sins against us, hurts us, we want Justice because it’s not fair if they “get away with it.” As for the first part ….

Our survival feels threatened when someone sins against us in a major way. Instinct says if we don’t get brutal revenge, the sinner will keep doing that to us until we’re dead. Revenge in that case ends up being a fear response, no matter how we justify it. But Christians are called to live above and beyond mere “survival mode,” and to follow Christ into the risky and vulnerable lifestyle of love, generosity, and Forgiveness.

Besides that, our God did not give us a Spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). So Christians are called to rise above the fear response reactions we have, and rise to the level of the Christ response.

None of this is easy. Real Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we can ever do in life as I keep saying. It’s disrespectful to the victim to tell them they simply need to Forgive right now and “get over it,” because it’s not that easy. It doesn’t work like that, but many people think it does.

Which is why it’s so refreshing to read a Christian book with a realistic view on how hard Forgiveness is. Forgiving what You’ll never Forget doesn’t sugarcoat anything about Forgiveness, or deny the truth of how difficult it is.

To learn more about Forgiveness, and to get an idea of this book’s honest views, today we look at what the book says about one of the most common misconceptions about what Forgiveness actually means.

Don’t Forgive without Learning

Something that makes it much harder for us to Forgive is we have many false misconceptions about what Forgiveness is. This is why David Stoop devotes a whole chapter of Forgiving what You’ll never Forget to “Myths and Truths about Forgiveness.” This chapter does an excellent job breaking down some of those common misconceptions, and showing how these false ideas make Forgiveness tougher. And Forgiveness is already difficult enough on its own; we don’t need to make it any worse!!

Stoop starts with the most common of all misconceptions about Forgiveness. We should always “Forgive and forget.” I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before, as I have. But Stoop says … that’s wrong!! Are you shocked?? Let’s hear what he has to say ….

Statement 1: When forgiving, I should always try to forgive and forget.

The answer is false, though if you answered true, you are not alone in that belief. I am amazed at how persistent it is. […] I think part of the reason is that many of us were taught this at a young age and it stuck. […]

Our belief that forgiving includes forgetting can be reinforced by our theology. We have been taught that when God forgives, he forgets. The promise in Jeremiah 31:34, repeated several times in Hebrews, says, “I will forgive their wickedness and I will never again remember their sins” (8:12; see also 10:17).

David Stoop, Forgiving what You’ll never Forget, Pages 26-27

It’s interesting when he says that what the Bible says about God has so much influence on our ideas of Forgiveness. And he’s right. Many Christians think, if we don’t Forgive instantly and unconditionally like God does, then it’s not true Forgiveness. Well, are we God?? Is it a good idea to hold ourselves to a God-like standard?? Stoop continues ….

Obviously, God does forgive and forget. The question then is, don’t I want to become more like God? And if so, doesn’t that mean I should eventually forgive as He does?

But how do spouses forget their partner’s unfaithfulness? How does a parent forget about the child who was murdered? Or how does an adult forget about the abuse he or she experienced as a child? Try as we may, we can’t forget. We may want to forget, but we really shouldn’t forget.

David Stoop, Forgiving what You’ll never Forget, Page 27

“We shouldn’t forget,” he says. There is a reason to remember what happened, even as we Forgive it. Remembering what happened, if it was something serious, is for our own protection. God doesn’t need to remember our sins if He chooses not to, because He is not in any danger from anyone on earth. As for us, there are people in this world who present a danger to us.

We can Forgive people who are dangerous and hurt us in the past. But if we forget about what they did, we don’t learn that they’re dangerous and learn to avoid them. It’s OK to Forgive someone and not trust them anymore. It’s OK to Forgive someone and not hang out with them anymore. It’s OK to Forgive someone and stop doing business with them. None of these options are anti-Biblical.

You see, I need to forgive and remember. The reason I need to remember is that you have a problem and I need to protect [myself]. Why then can God forgive and forget? Basically because there is nothing he needs to learn in the process. He is omniscient—he knows everything.

David Stoop, Forgiving what You’ll never Forget, Page 28

Stoop continues on to give a more serious, extreme example of what we’re talking about. A young woman found out her father was molesting her daughter. Turns out the father had done the same thing to this young mother, when she was that age. The young mother had Forgiven her father, which is good. But she also allowed herself to forget about what he had done in the past, which created a danger for her daughter in the present. The mother was right to Forgive; she was wrong to forget. Forgetting put her daughter at risk.

I vividly remember a young mother who came to see me. She was broken and very distraught, having just learned that her father had been molesting her eight-year-old daughter. As we talked, I sensed there was something more to the situation than she was telling me. I listened for a while and then asked her, “What else is going on in this situation?” She began to sob uncontrollably before she was finally able to say, “He did the same thing to me when I was that age.”

[…] She had tried to do the “godly thing”—to forgive and forget. However, she had also forgotten that her father had never acknowledged his wrongdoing. She had ignored the risk. He was dangerous, and he could and did do the same thing to her daughter. In remembering her hurt, she would have been able to protect her daughter. We need to forgive and remember, for when the hurt is deep, we need to learn something in the process about how to protect ourselves and those we love from having the same thing happen to them.

David Stoop, Forgiving what You’ll never Forget, Pages 28-29

There are times to Forgive and forget, and there are times to Forgive and remember. How do we know what time it is?? How do we know when to choose which one of these paths?? That calls for Wisdom. And who gives out Wisdom?? God.

We often need God’s Power in our lives to be able to Forgive anything anyway, so we’ll already be praying to God for that Power. While we pray for the Power to Forgive, we should also pray for Wisdom about how to Forgive. Can the sinner ever be trusted again?? Can we have reconciliation or not?? (Because reconciliation and Forgiveness are two different things.) All this Wisdom we can and should pray for when we’re praying for the Power to Forgive.

Which Way??

Forgiveness is tough, it’s hard, as I keep saying over and over. One more thing about Forgiveness that I’m learning from David Stoop’s book is Forgiveness isn’t so simple. It’s not so black-and-white, cut-and-dry, yes-or-no, up-or-down.

Forgiveness is complicated and multi-faceted. There are many things to consider. And the common ideas about Forgiveness may not be the best ideas. In some cases these ideas may do more harm than good if they overlook, downplay, or misinterpret what Forgiveness is.

Forgiveness isn’t as simple as we’ve been led to believe. It’s not an instant thing we can turn on or off like a light switch. Some people think that is how it works. What they overlook is that it takes time and a process of healing before we can, by the Grace of God, flip that “Forgiveness switch.”

We always have to pray to God when there’s something we need to Forgive. When we do, let’s be realistic and honest about what we’re praying for. Forgiveness is complicated, on top of being difficult. The next time we pray for the Grace to Forgive, let’s pray for Wisdom too.

Sometimes the only correct way is to Forgive and remember.

“All of a sudden I realized that the real virtue came in forgiving precisely while remembering. If I could forget, I would not have to forgive. It would not even be necessary.”

Virgil Elizondo

That’s it for #shorts Part 50.

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