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How to Forgive and Forget

It’s Hard to Forgive; It’s harder to Forget

Forgiveness is almost impossible sometimes. We know we should. We want to, but the memories keep the pain alive. Unforgiveness is dangerous. It can cause sickness and stress and makes us bitter, angry people. It is the root of the problems in many friendships, marriages, and working relationships.

On our own we can’t do it. We need help.

We Need Enabling Grace

This is what I love about God. He never demands anything from us that he will not provide the help to do. He also doesn’t require anything of us that he is not willing to do.

How do we forgive others? Well, we start with the heart of our God and his gift of forgiveness.

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7: 18-19.
He delights in showing mercy. He delights in forgiving us! I want to be like that. The human heart usually wants  revenge, but revenge never brings new life, only death. Death of friendships and marriages. Death of joy.
By God’s grace, we can extend grace. His undeserved favor can empower us to be forgiving people. Remember this and pray for his empowering grace before you lash back. Breathe. Count to ten. Wait as long as you need to respond rather than react. Wait until God gives you the words and the grace to respond kindly.

God’s Perspective

Oh, to have God’s perspective. Jesus used the precious air left in his lungs when dying on the cross to cry out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Jesus could see the true hearts and thoughts of the people crucifying him. He knew their ignorance.

Pray to see the people you can’t forgive as Jesus sees them.

Hurt people hurt people, right? We all know that, but our defenses rise up and we want to lash back. I see it with my middle school students all the time. They can’t see the pain of the person stirring up trouble, so they lash back which intensifies the battle. But kindness can disarm the anger. Pray. The prayer is easy:

“God, help me see ____________ as you do.”

friends on beach

How to Forgive and Not Remember

So, here’s the deal: we may never completely forget, but God will soften the memory and heal our wounds as we choose to forgive. The Bible tells us that God will “remember our sin no more.”

But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor,or a man his brother,saying, ‘Know the LORD,’for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more.” says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and orders the moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of Hosts is His name:… Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Understanding Hebrew Culture

The Bible tells us that God will “not remember” our sins, but we need to know Hebraic culture to really understand what it means to “forget” and forgive. Many of us fear that if we can’t forget then we haven’t forgiven. But according to Lois Tverberg, there’s more to forgiving and forgetting than having it erased from our brains.

In her book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, Tverberg explains that in Hebrew the word for “remember” is zakhar. It means both to remember and to take action as one remembers. The Hebrew word for “forget”, shakach and nashach, also holds the idea of not acting upon the memory.

Notice the psalmist cry to God:

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).

Tverberg explains: “Here the psalmist is saying, “Why do you ignore my prayers and not intervene in my crisis?” God does not forget, but sometimes it seems as if he does” (p. 75).

We know that feeling don’t we? When circumstances don’t get better it feels as if God’s inaction proves He’s forgotten us even though He hasn’t.

To Forget Is More than Memory Loss

In the same way, when God forgives and no longer “remembers” our sins, he is not acting on our sin. In the same way when we forgive and “forget,” it’s not that the memory is erased, it’s that we don’t retaliate. We don’t lash back with hurtful words or actions.

When I read about this Hebrew concept of “forgetting” in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, I felt such freedom. This is what I love so much about our God and His Word. It is freeing. It’s not demanding. His commands don’t suck the life out of us. If they do, we aren’t interpreting it correctly.

Quit Striving to Forget

Listen to these words from Brian Simmons, the author of The Passion Translation of the Bible. I just received this in an email today.

When you know Me, you will no longer strive to be better or strive to be loved. When you experience My endless compassion, you will learn to forgive. To strive is to leave My strength and embrace the cares of life. To refuse to strive means you will enter the life that I give to all those who love Me. Faith rests in hope. Know that I will never fail you or disappoint you. So My child, this is the day of Sabbath joy when you will enter into the realm of My kingdom.

In God’s Kingdom there is forgiveness, and the Kingdom of God is in us who have asked for Jesus to come into our lives and be our king.

Bible Reading Plan to Help Us Forgive and “Forget” #BiteofBread

{Printable Version Available}

Lamentations 3: 23: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (NIV)

  • The word “compassions” is often translated as “mercies.” The Lord’s mercy is new every morning. Every day we awake with new help, new hope, and forgiveness. “Mercy” has been translated from chesed. This is the merciful, acts of loving-kindness bound by God’s covenant making heart. What part of God’s chesed do you need today? Do you need his chesed to be forgiven or to help forgive? Write a prayer thanking Him for this daily fresh slate.


Luke 7:47: “I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” ~Jesus (NIV)

  • I love this story in the Bible. If you have time, read the entire scene in Luke 7. It’s of the prostitute who crashes the Pharisee’s dinner party to anoint Jesus. Rather than focusing on the people you need to forgive, take time to love on Jesus today. Worship Him. Get on your knees. Thank Him for forgiving you of your sins.

It’s Tempting

Matthew 6: 13-15: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

  • Remember, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, it means letting go and not “getting back.” One of Google’s definitions is “canceling a debt.” Have you ever realized that the temptation Jesus is referring to in the Lord’s prayer (verse 13 is the end of the prayer) is unforgiveness? You may want to read the entire Lord’s prayer here- Matt. 6: 9-13. Google’s other definitions for forgiveness include to stop feeling resentful and angry. That’s hard, but we trust God to free our hearts as we choose to cancel the debt. Journal the debts you choose to cancel today and write a prayer asking God to help free your heart too.

Romans 12:9: Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

  • Can you give it to God? Can you trust His justice and righteousness? The verse before this one says to try to live at peace with everyone. I love how the scripture says “try.” God knows it’s hard. He understands. But He also knows that unforgiveness and revenge makes things worse. The rest of this scripture says to bless your enemies. Though it says to give them water and food, maybe you can start with simply praying for them. Write a prayer for those people you cannot forgive.

Here’s the Free Printable with the Scriptures and Prompts

Colossians 3: 1-2: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

  • If you are having trouble forgiving someone and the scene continues to play in your mind, write it down in a journal, close the book, and give it to God. Turn on your favorite worship music and focus on worshiping God. Don’t dwell on the offense or continue to talk about it. Worship the King. Let Jesus’s peace rule in you.

Thursday Night Live is Back! (I hope.)

We are slowly getting back to our normal since Florence and company visiting and all that’s been going on in my life. I hope you can meet me in my living room Thursday night at 7:20 ET. Just follow me on Facebook, grab your Bible, and get ready to dig deeper into these scriptures. Can’t wait! In case you missed last week’s teaching on 5 truths to help us defeat comparison, here’s the video. 


Digging Deep in Forgiveness,






  1. […] I don’t think we can receive His forgiveness until we’ve released others. I’ve written a post on how to forgive and forget. You might want to read this today if you are struggling with forgiveness. God wants us to be set […]

  2. Andy, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on forgiveness & forgetting. I think most of us that have prayed to forgive someone still deals with memories of hurtful emotions that just don’t away. But if those memories lead us to prayer rather than thoughts of retaliating, then we can be free from the guilt of wondering if we have truly forgiven! Thank you so much for digging deep into the Scriptures and sharing this with us.

    1. Thanks, Sandy! Isn’t the Hebrew understanding freeing? I hope many people share and read this so many can find that freedom. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Deborah Randle

    Andy, I have been struggling with this the entire year. My daughter is a drug addict and tomorrow she comes back to Wilmington and back into our lives. When she is clean, she is the most beautiful person. I have been struggling with forgiveness and unconditional love all summer. I opened up this email this morning and new God had sent it my way. I’m going to reread it and take all your suggestions for journaling and work though this knowing that God is right here with me ever step of the way. Debbie

    1. Debbie, I’m so sorry you’ve been through such heartache with your daughter. I’ll be praying for you! I know of some books that may be helpful for you. “You’re not Alone” by Dena Yohe and “Boundaries with Troubled Adult Children” and “Connecting with your TAC” by Allison Bottke. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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