Recently I was challenged on my idea of forgiving and forgetting.
Many people believe that it is impossible to forget an offence, even though you forgive someone, but I believe we are called to not only forgive, but to forget. There is scientific evidence that says forgetting is possible. Although referring to science seems to go against faith, the idea is not based on one or the other, but on both. God is the God of everything. Not only did He create science, but everything science studies. Science is about truth, just as God is about truth. Therefore, they are completely compatible.
I can’t find a scripture verse that says to ‘forgive and forget,’ and that doesn’t sound good, considering that I’m putting forth a premise which says you can; but if I’ve learned anything about God and His Word, it’s that you only find a part of Him on the black and white of the page. To find the rest of Him, you have to look underneath the words and read between the lines. That’s where I found out that I could forget offences: Truly forgiving will lead to forgetting.
Unless you have a lobotomy, you cannot erase a memory, but you can hide an offence from your memory by covering it with good.
How many times have you forgotten where you left your car keys? If you’re anything like me, you’ve done that many times. They did not disappear from your memory – you’re looking for them, so you know they’re there – you just can’t see them. One of your kids walk in and toss their hat on top of the keys, so now unless you consciously move the hat, you’ll have a hard time finding them. Remember, you know where the keys are – you are the one who left them on the ledge in the first place.
Another example is being in debt. Thankfully Darrell and I aren’t there anymore – yahoo! But in the days of bad debt, I hated opening the mail. So I wouldn’t. I’d toss the unopened bill into a drawer in the kitchen, and shut it in there. I took action because I didn’t want to be reminded of the debt. Although that was a totally wrong application, the principal was right: Out of sight, out of mind.
The Protection of Covering
“Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].” 1 Peter 4:8
“Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection].” 1 Peter 3:9
Who? The word cover means: to cover up a thing, to hinder the knowledge of a thing. We are trying to hinder the knowledge of the offences of others. But from whom? From whom are we trying to hide the offence? The only thing I can hide from God by Christ’s blood is my own sin. I can’t use the blood of Christ to hide someone else’s sin from God. Only they can do that.
I hide the offence that was done to me … from me.
Why? I need to protect myself … from myself. Our brains are not wired for evil: insults, scolding, tongue-lashing, or berating. They are wired for love: blessing, welfare, happiness, protection, and pitying others. We are created without the mental biology for hate. Every thought we think is seared into our brain and becomes a physical part of it, a process called neuroplasticity.
We are created to create.
We have been given the power to choose how to wire our brains, and given the capacity to do it. God set before us life and death, blessing and curse, and then He told us to choose life so that we will live. (Deut. 30:19)
Science has proved:
- that every single thought carries an emotion
- inside every emotion there is a pocketful of chemicals
- the chemicals inside all emotions are responsible for how the brain grows
We can’t choose to remember a bad thought (memory of an offence against us) without receiving the consequences of those thoughts (the toxic chemicals which come with the thoughts).
Good thoughts carry good emotions, and produce a healthy mixture of chemicals that create a healthy brain. Bad thoughts carry bad emotions, and produce a toxic mixture of chemicals that create an unhealthy brain. This is nature. This is science. This is how the human brain works, and there is no way to avoid it.
The key is wanting to
Science has shown the way our thoughts affect our brains. God created us this way so that we could have a choice over ourselves. We don’t get the benefits from the healthful chemicals by forgiving because God tells us we have to – we only get those benefits when we forgive because we want to. Forgiving because we have to is acting according to religion, but forgiving because we want to is acting in the love described in 1 Peter 4:8. When you cover the offence with love – the good memories of good things – you actually starve the bad memory of the attention it needs in order to grow.
In this image, Dr. C. Leaf is pointing to a toxic memory. Using advancements in technology, we can actually see the difference between the good trees and the bad ones. The process of remembering an offence causes the toxic chemicals associated with that memory to be released into the brain. Continuing to think and mediate on it makes the tree grow and become stronger, and it releases more and more toxic chemicals… which continue to grow the tree while you continue to think toxic thoughts.
However, if you choose to think of the positive things that person has done, you are choosing to release the healthful chemicals that will cover that memory, shrinking the bad tree and growing good ones. You conquer evil with good every single time you choose NOT to meditate on the offence done to you and instead focus on “…whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honourable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].” –Phil 4:8
We can’t stop thinking about something if we continue to think about it – “I forgive my husband for doing X to me. I forgive my husband for doing X to me. I forgive my husband for doing X to me.” etc. See how many times I have to mention X? The very act of trying to forgive without replacing that bad memory with a good one causes you to focus on the offence, which actually strengthens the memory with toxic chemicals. You have to forgive, and then follow through with GOOD thoughts. More good thoughts lead to more good chemicals, which in turn puts more blanketing over the offence.
Just like the keys that were hidden and the bill that I chose to hide, an offence can be:
out of sight … OUT OF MIND
This is why I said that you can’t forget unless you want to. To find the keys or the bill, I’m going to have to make a conscious choice to purposely dig through what’s covering either of them. So in order to get back to that offence (X) done to me, I’m going to have to consciously NOT choose good, thereby digging through all the good I’ve already put there and pulling that offence back to the surface. I have to choose to uncover it… and not forgive and forget.
There has been plenty of research done by many doctors in this field. Dr. Leaf just happens to be the one from whom I first learned it. I like the way she has simplified the understanding of the scientific workings of the brain, I find her delivery system of that information easy to digest, and her heavy South African accent makes her enjoyable to listen to.
Wives, run your race to win. 1 Corinthians 9:24