Forgiving and Forgetting
by Charles R. Swindoll
"I'll forgive . . . but I'll never forget."
We say and hear that so much that it's easy to shrug it off as "only natural." That's the problem! It is the most natural response we can expect. Not supernatural. It also can result in tragic consequences.
Recently, I read of two unmarried sisters who lived together, but because of an unresolved disagreement over an insignificant issue, they stopped speaking to each other (one of the inescapable results of refusing to forget). Since they were either unable or unwilling to move out of their small house, they continued to use the same rooms, eat at the same table, use the same appliances, and sleep in the same room . . . all separately . . . without one word. A chalk line divided the sleeping area into two halves, separating doorways as well as the fireplace. Each would come and go, cook and eat, sew and read without ever stepping over into her sister's territory. Through the black of the night, each could hear the deep breathing of the other, but because both were unwilling to take the first step toward forgiving and forgetting the silly offense, they coexisted for years in grinding silence.1
Refusing to forgive and forget leads to other tragedies, like monuments of spite. How many churches split (often over nitpicking issues), then spin off in another direction, fractured, splintered, and blindly opinionated?
Whether a personal or public matter, how we respond to those who offend us quickly reveals whether we possess a servant's heart. It isn't enough simply to say, "Well, okay—you're forgiven, but don't expect me to forget it!" That means we have erected a monument of spite in our mind, and that isn't really forgiveness at all.
Servants must be big people. Big enough to go on, remembering the right and forgetting the wrong. Like the age-old saying, "Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble.2
Can we really forget? I'll write about that tomorrow.
- Leslie B. Flynn, Great Church Fights (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, a division of SP Publications, Inc., 1976), 91.
- Flynn, 85.
Excerpted from Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude
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This two-message series traces the significant themes of forgiveness and grace—two of God’s gifts we can be thankful for in any relationship.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.