Forgetting is Not Forgiving

How many times have you heard the statement, “I can forgive, but I can’t forget”? When I hear those words they are nearly always spoken with a tone that says, “I am holding on to the pain and I will deal with the offender accordingly”. What seems to be said is, I forgive, therefore I will not seek revenge, even though I could, but, I will treat this person differently as a result of their offense. If I am right and that is what often lies behind the statement, then we really do not understand the nature of forgiveness or forgetting.

If you are to truly forgive someone then you must never forget what they have done. Yes, you read that right. If you are to truly forgive someone then you must never forget what they have done. If you forget it, then you have not forgiven. Look at the encounter between Jesus and Peter following the resurrection. In John 21 Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” At the third asking, Peter is heartbroken. Why? Because the last time Peter was asked the same question three times he denied even knowing Jesus. Jesus knew that and remembered that. In an incredible act of grace he out that event back on the table and let Peter know that it was alright. He was forgiven and restored. In order to truly forgive Peter, Jesus had to remember the betrayal. Then, in spite of the pain that the betrayal gave Him, Jesus then treated Peter as a brother whom He loved and forgave.

Forgiveness is about treating someone with the love of God, in-spite of what they have done. When you remember the pain of rejection, the anguish of betrayal, the shock of being sinned against, forgiveness becomes evident when you still treat that other person like Jesus treated Peter, like He treats you. If I never remember what they have done, I am not being forgiving. I am just absent minded.

Forgiving and remembering means that not only do I refuse to take revenge, but I also determine to do something positive. I determine to treat you with love, respect, and dignity and I will not hold your sin against you. That sounds and awful lot like the way God treats us because of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.

Finally, the person whom we are to forgive also needs to know that we know and remember what they did. If Jesus would have never brought the denials to the table, yet treated Peter well, there would have always been a lingering doubt. Peter would never have really known if he was forgiven or if Jesus simply forgot about the denials. He would have been eaten alive by guilt and doubt. But by putting it all out in the open Jesus makes it clear that He knows what Peter did and He still loves and forgives him. Forgiving and forgetting is not the answer. Remembering and forgiving is.

7 thoughts on “Forgetting is Not Forgiving

  1. Dan Lacich

    Feel free to share anything and everything that you find on here. It is all for His glory.

  2. I see what you’re saying, but what about 2 Cor. 5:17?

    I guess it comes down to what remembering means. Remembering that God (or people) have forgiven us is great, but I frankly don’t want to remember someone else’s sins against me once I’ve forgiven them. I feel like that would tempt my to be prideful for my willingness to forgive. Just like my own sin in God’s eyse, I want their sin to be gone, wiped away forever, so that everything is new.

    Maybe there’s a fine line here that we’re dancing around. Yes, Jesus brought up Peter’s sin, but that was to restore him.

  3. I’ve worked from the paradigm that forgiveness willingly puts one’s self in a position to be harmed in the same way all over again (more needs to be said here regarding things like abuse, etc., which cannot be fully explored in a comment). By stepping in close I am a fool to live ignorantly but my memory allows me to live restoratively as your example depicts.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Far too many make nice nice and call it forgiveness when their actions betray their very attempts.

  4. Dan Lacich


    Great thoughts on forgiveness. I think it really gets to the heart of God who continually puts Himself in a position to be hurt by us in the same ways, again and again.

  5. Georgi

    I just happend on this n my quest 2 not only forgive which I feel is easy & 2 treat others w th same respect is also fine & i can do, but 2 understand how 2 get past th sins of others that keep hurting u. uts th sins that no matter how much u regret or th sinner regrets wat was done it cant go away b/c it was done n such away that u live w th bad consequences of th sin everyday. it starts 2 build th anger that show never b there. I no there has 2 b a way 2 get 2 were i need 2 b, a way 2 forgive & yes forget n a way. if u have anything on this i would b greatful b/c i also understand that if i dont get passed this i will not be forgiven Matt 6:15 & more on this line says th same.

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