A lot of people ask this question: “Is it possible to forgive and forget?” Or, “I still remember how deeply this person hurt me, does that mean I haven’t forgiven them?”
What they are really asking is, “How do I deal with the negative memories that pop up every now and then, even though I know I have forgiven and moved on?”
Many times, people confuse forgiveness with forgetfulness. In reality, it is almost impossible to wipe out your memories of any experience that had a deep impact on you – whether positive or negative. When it is a negative experience that you want to “forget,” what you can, and should, do is to transform the emotions that are linked to those experiences from negative to positive. Let me explain.
Let’s say your husband or wife does something that really, really hurt you. (I use this example because it is often the ones closest to us that have the potential to hurt us the most.) The emotions you felt when it happened i.e. sadness, anger, bitterness, betrayal, etc. become intricately woven into that experience and are attached to it when you store that memory away. And the interesting thing is, the longer you hold on to those emotions, the more powerfully they become associated with the memory of that experience.
What that means is, even after the incident is resolved and you have genuinely forgiven them, it is very common for the memory to trigger the same negative emotions you felt when it happened. That is, every time you receive a signal from an outside stimuli (for example, the person does something that hurts you again), it brings up that memory along with the negative emotions that are attached to it and you find yourself feeling almost the way they felt when that incident happened. This is what really keeps people bound to negative events from their past.
But did you know that God can rewrite your memories? I have certainly seen this happen in my own life. Here, let me show you the promise for that:
“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. (Isaiah 54:4 NLT)
Notice, the scripture does not say that those people would no longer remember the events of their youth or their widowhood. What it promises is that they would forget the sorrows and the shame of those events. That is, you would forget the negative emotions and perspectives that are associated with those memories to the point that every time you remember those events, there’s not a single emotion of sorrow, pain or shame or anything negative linked to it.
So, how do you practically allow the Holy Spirit to re-write your memories? This is what you do: Every time that memory pops into your mind (you can also do this at will), along with the negative emotions attached to it, open your mouth and thank God for the experience.
What?! You’re asking me to thank God that I was hurt? No, that’s not what I said. What I said is, thank God for that experience with the understanding that nothing you turn over to God can ultimately be against you. It will always work out for your good. Keep doing that until the negative sting that is attached to that memory is transformed into a positive expectation of the good God will bring out of it.