Dear Lucy: I have been ill for some time. I read your articles and you have said that the most important part of healing is forgiveness. I have tried to forgive those who have hurt me so much but I cannot forget what they did to me. My pastor says that when we forgive it is not complete until we forget. How do you forget?
– Still Sick
Dear Still Sick: Most of us have been told that forgetting and forgiving go hand in hand. I don't agree. Memories always live in us at some level, conscious or unconscious. There are many things I thought I had forgotten only to have them pop up one day under unexpected provocation.
It is not that we forgive and miraculously forget the slight or the hurt. What we must do is forgive and also let go of the sting, resentment, vengefulness and anger over the memory of the hurtful event.
In Isaiah 61: 1-6, the prophet talks about what we will give for our sorrow and pain. He speaks of beauty for ashes and a spirit of joy for heaviness. One of the first keys to forgiveness is checking to see what emotions you have become attached to related to the event. Do you enjoy the self-pity, the righteous anger, or imagining the ways that you could get even if you had the chance? Are you willing to give these feelings up? You cannot hold onto those and forgive at the same time.
I have heard people boast and say, "I forgave you, but I don't intend to forget." To me, to forget means letting go of the sting and replacing it with something better. Can you replace the resentment, humiliation and anger with mercy, understanding and the spirit of loving kindness? Your unforgiving spirit will keep you in bondage, not the other person.
If you believe in Jesus, can you imagine the person who hurt you in the loving arms of Jesus? Our ability to forgive includes the capacity to see the other person as blessed and prosperous as we want to be.
"Vengeance is mine saith The Lord." When we have been humiliated we feel that we did not deserve what happened and cannot humble ourselves. We sometimes think that if we forgive that means the person gets to go free without paying for what was done to you. Actually, what happens to that person is none of your business. That's between them and their God. You should have sense enough to stay out of harm's way in the future.
A great question to ask when faced with illness is, "Do I really want to be made whole?" What are you willing to do to be whole? Forgiveness is always a part of healing and moving on. Unforgiveness keeps us locked in the past.
Throughout the day, whisper a prayer for the one who hurt you. It may simply be, "I forgive you and I release you and my hurt to God." One day you will notice that when you remember that person or event, the sting and the emotion has simply disappeared. Then you will know that you have not only forgiven but you have also purified the memory. You have finally released your attachment to your own anger, resentment, humiliation or need for vengeance.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)