There is a myth that is perpetrated by most of society. Among Christians, this is even more emphatically upheld and clung to. There is a belief that if someone appears repentant, we must offer forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgive and forget
If it still hurts, you aren’t over it
It’s in the past
Looking in the rearview mirror doesn’t help you drive forward
We hear things like this all the time. I wonder where it comes from? It’s not Biblical.
Forgive & forget: The Bible repeatedly implores us, commands us even, to forgive those who sin against us. The Bible also repeatedly admonishes us to remember. We are not to forget what God has rescued us from. Forgiveness brings us peace. Sometimes, it brings reconciliation to a relationship. Sometimes, it sets us free from the relationship.
If it still hurts, you aren’t over it: This is beyond false. Well, maybe it’s true. Either way, if you aren’t over it, maybe there is a good reason. I will never get over Thorn’s or Lily’s deaths. Maybe their lives matter enough to me that it would be abnormal for me to ever “get over” their deaths. I will always miss them. The pain diminishes with time, I have gotten used to missing them, but it will never be completely gone.
It’s in the past: Yes, yes, it is. What is your point? Since when does the past not matter? Do we not honor the past consistently and regularly throughout the year? On September 11, we pause to remember. On November 11, we (in Canada) take a holiday to remember those who died and fought in war. On July 1 (Canada) and July 4 (USA) we take a holiday to remember when our countries were formed. All Biblical holidays were days of remembrance, in fact every 7th day is set aside by God as a day of remembrance. How does this translate to forgetting?
Looking in the rearview mirror doesn’t help you drive forward: Since when? I happen to use my rearview mirror quite regularly when I am driving forward. I use it to make sure the road behind me is clear, that I’m not going to run into anything coming up behind me if I need to change direction or slow down. I use it to make sure something or someone behind me is not going to run into me. A driver that does not use the rearview mirror is not a good driver.
We must be wise. Forgiveness is not intrinsically linked to forgetting. You can forgive without forgetting. You can move on without reconciling with an abuser.
With intense counseling and accountability, an abuser can change… in approximately 6 years. It is a long, drawn out process. It does not happen overnight, it is a dangerous journey (for the victim). Few abusers are willing to acknowledge they need to change, let alone make the effort to do so. Change certainly does not happen overnight or within days. An abuser is an excellent actor. They wear a mask every day, they constantly fool people into seeing what they want them to see. To be apologetic, remorseful and repentant is not a sign of change.
The cycle of abuse shows an abuser is sorry after the abusive episodes, they go into a honeymoon period, and then the cycle of abuse restarts. A victim of abuse knows this. By the time they leave the remorseful actions and words of the abuser has lost its power. Words mean nothing when the actions are screaming a completely different message.
When an abuser can convince others that they are remorseful, but the victim “won’t” forgive, the abuser removes part of the victims support system. It brings them one step closer to getting the victim to return to the relationship. All of a sudden, the abuser is not the one working to get the victim to return, to reconcile the relationship, instead it is the support system… those who would normally stand against the abuser are now standing by them, asking the victim to “forgive & forget” — to reconcile.
When we forget, we open the door to repeating history. When we remember, we protect ourselves. This is not remembering to find vengeance. This is not remembering to cling to the hurt.
We must remember in order to protect our children, ourselves
and others who can learn from our story. Remembering saves lives.
Speak up. Keep speaking up. Let the story be told. Let the story be remembered. Remember your story. Remember my story. Remember His story, especially as it intertwines with your story.