A small flame

A small flame

Forgive and . . . remember

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One of the most helpful books I have read in the past year is Forgive and Forget by Lewis Smedes.

This book is not about what the Bible has to say about forgiveness, or what it looks like for believers to forgive. There are other good books that fit that description.

This book is a microscopic examination of the psychological, mental and emotional process that we humans go through on the journey from being deeply wounded to forgiving and healing.

If that last sentence raised the hairs on your God-centered, nouthetic-counselling 'neck', hang in there with me!

I believe very strongly in a God-centered, Bible-saturated method of dealing with life. That said, I think there is benefit to be gained from examining the basic ways that we process life if, in the end, we use that understanding in submission to God's Word. Does that make sense?

I definitely don't agree with every single thing in this book, but Forgive and Forget has helped me to make sense of my journey in so many ways.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past couple of years, it is that forgiveness is both a moment and a journey. That, though today I may tell someone that I forgive them - and truly, genuinely forgive them - I may have to fight to forgive them again tomorrow.... for many 'tomorrows', to be honest. Deep wounds heal slowly. Lives completely re-routed in one "day the world went wrong" moment are lived out one day at a time. The struggle to continue to forgive is not a sign that my originally-given forgiveness was false. Rather, it is a sign of grace that, as I continue to experience the on-going impact of how I was wronged, God gives me the desire and the grace to continue to forgive.

Phil wrote about this same idea a few months ago :

"Forgiveness is not just a one-time transaction in which you promise to not bring up my sin again, end of story. Rather, it may be a continual, day-to-day mental, emotional, and spiritual struggle to keep that promise. In that sense, you may have to forgive me every day for the rest of your life, if the offense caused deep enough pain.

Continuing to feel hurt or even angry at times is not necessarily a sin. Jesus felt both sorrowful and angry at times. If someone has committed a severe injustice, it may be appropriate to have some sense of anger about what happened.... You are never going to forget what happened, but you can come to the place where you treat the offender with love rather than justice....


While I think the transactional view (of forgiveness) is biblical, it can be cold and harsh in the hands of one who loves the biblical ideal more than he loves people. This is true of any biblical truth, but it is especially damaging in regard to the truth of forgiveness, since strong emotions are often involved. Compassion for those who are hurting leads us to be patient with them, giving them time to work through their emotions and deal with their pain and anger. Insisting that people bypass the process of working through emotions and simply conform to the ideal immediately is not loving or realistic. It will not help anyone and will only lead to further pain. The critical thing is that the offended person is committed to forgiving, even if they struggle daily to do so. The struggle is okay; indeed, it is sometimes necessary. "

{you can read the entire post here}
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More on forgiving and remembering tomorrow . . .


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