The Foolproof Way to Forgive and Forget

Only with God's help can we truly 'empty the trash'

Have you ever been wrongly accused? Misjudged? Yelled at for no good reason? We’ve all been in that position. I certainly have — just the other day. I was so shocked by it, and even worse, it occurred while I was trying to help a friend.

How do you handle another person’s negative behavior that affects you or your kids?

None of us wants old downloads from the past that clog us up and weigh us down.

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Do you store it up? File it away in the “someday I will get back at the person” folder? Do you bury it deep down inside, silently nursing your wounds? Do you retaliate and “give back as good as you’ve been given”?

Oddly, at about the same time this incident occurred, my computer began running really slowly. People suggested I delete old files, downloads that were no longer needed, things that were just weighing down my computer, old junk that was taking up too much space in its brain.

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I was told I needed to put these outdated items in the “trash” — but then one step further was necessary. I needed to “empty the trash.”

After a day of reflecting on the very unpleasant incident, re-living it, analyzing it, and feeling bruised and upset about it, I realized it was a “download” that was just taking up too much space in my brain. It needed to be put in the “trash can” of my memory. Then I needed to go one step further — I needed to empty the trash, permanently deleting it.

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How exactly do you do that? The phrase “I forgive you, but I will never forget it,” comes to mind when pondering this distinction.

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I would call the first part of that statement the “putting it in the trash,” and the second part “not emptying the can.”

If we cannot learn to forgive and forget, we will forever be full of old files — downloads of the past clogging us up, weighing us down.

I have found that only in Jesus am I able to truly “empty the trash.”

How? Because He can forgive what I cannot. His Holy Spirit can do things I am not able to do in my own strength. He can supernaturally love where my own human efforts to love fall painfully short.

Here are four helpful guidelines to takin’ out the trash:

1.) Give the hurt to Jesus.
Offer it up and don’t let it be wasted. Pray, “Jesus, I give this to you and offer it up as a sacrifice for this special intention. I unite this pain with Your pain and suffering on the cross. May it be used for Your redemptive purposes.”

2.) Ask Jesus to show you the person who has hurt you through His eyes.
Once you are moved to pity for that person, the pain is somewhat lessened. Instead of seeing that person as your enemy and yourself as a “victim,” you can start to see them as a wounded, broken individual, in need of great healing, and you can help to aid in that process with your prayers. This empowers you and takes you from “wounded” to “healer.”

3.) Pray for that person.
Release them and the entire incident into the far more capable hands of God. You need not try to fix them, or even yourself. Only God can truly fix us. Trust in His good work to do that. Only God can repair the irreparable.

4.) Then leave it with Him.
Don’t re-play it again and again. The trash has been “emptied,” so make room for the present and look to the future with hope.

This story from “Calm My Anxious Heart ” by Linda Dillow is about American Red Cross founder Clara Barton:

“One day Clara was reminded of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never heard of the incident! ‘Don’t you remember it?’ her friend asked. ‘No,’ came Clara’s reply. ‘I distinctly remember forgetting it.’ She had made a conscious choice to forgive a vicious deed, a conscious choice to continue forgiving when reminded of the deed. By replying, ‘I distinctly remember forgetting it,’ Clara Barton was saying, ‘I remember choosing to forgive and I still choose to forgive.'”

Don’t let the enemy of your soul derail you by getting your eyes off God and onto your hurt. Turn each and every hurt into an incident that brings you closer to God. Allow all that happens to you to be an opportunity to help you to grow to be more and more like Him.

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“More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8).

Dear Lord,
I want You and the things of You more than I want the old hurt that clogs up my mind and drags down my soul — things that feel like a heavy weight of garbage in my life. Please give me the grace of being able to let things go into Your capable and grace-filled hands, knowing that You are far more qualified at judging and fixing the situation than I am.

Help me to be forgiving, gracious, loving, and kind even to those who do not deserve it, as I do not deserve Your grace in my life, as that is what grace is — undeserved favor. Help me to be able to pass it along, in Your strength and by Your Spirit. Without You I can do no better. Jesus, I trust in You to do this through me.

I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Melissa Overmyer is founder of  Something Greater Ministries in Washington, D.C., and has taught the Bible for over 30 years. 

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