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Forgiving by not forgetting

By February 18, 2015Uncategorized

Practice tribe member John Perrine (twitter @johnhperrine) is a Biblical Studies graduate of Moody Bible Institute and current MDiv student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In this blog he explores the importance of ‘remembering rightly’ and how forgetting may not be as helpful in the process of forgiveness as we once thought…

What a gift this past Sunday to hear about the journey of forgiveness. For most of my life, forgiveness was something we were told to “just do”- a kind of necessary exercise like cleaning out your car that you do once and then leave alone until the junk piles up again. The wonderful invitation of course, is that forgiveness is far more than just a one and done guilt trip of shame and should’s. Instead, it is a process, a journey, a repetitive cycle where we must re-vist our hurt, re-frame our understanding, and release it to God.

Our hope with these Wednesday posts however, has not been to simply reiterate but rather expand where we went this past Sunday with a word or direction to help us as a community dive just a bit deeper. So the question this blog specifically wants to ask is: What does it mean to take that hurt or betrayal and not just feel but to actually understand it anew before God in such a way that we can now forgive?

Perhaps, if you’re like me, when you think of re-framing your past perspective on the person or situation that hurt you, your instinct is to thirst for justice. You can’t wait to tell the story the way it needs to be told. If people would only just understand how terrible they were, all the cruel things they did to you, the way they made you feel when that thing happened. Isn’t there something in you, that if someone were to truly listen, to your side of the story, maybe then you would be able to slowly release all the pain that has built up inside?

This step is vital in the healing process. You must first be heard, the pain must be expressed, the wounds must first be felt through tears. There is however, a danger, a temptation that we face when we begin express all the pain inside. It is possible, as we sit and reminisce over these painful protrusions of our past, that we begin to distort the truthfulness of what actually happened. I can think of one friendship in particular where I felt deeply betrayed by some of the things this individual had done, things he had said, and things I felt every time I was around him. The story I began to tell myself was, “What kind of a person does something like this to his friend? Doesn’t he even know how he’s making me feel? How could anyone enjoy his company when he treats his close friends like that!” As the story grew however, the valid grievances he had done against me expanded into an all encompassing narrative of who he was at the core of his being. I began to no longer view this friend as a person but as a villain, a central antagonist who I could at times blame for things only remotely connected to him. Why is it that I feel so lousy today? It must be because he was around.

Friends, do you see how easy it is, in addressing our pain, to begin to remember wrongly the very wrongs that were done to us? Now it’s important that you hear me correctly. In order for us to remember rightly, it’s not that we pretend that nothing happened at all. This is especially key for those of us whose painful experiences are so deeply traumatic and scarring that we wish we could never think of them again. That is why the first part of our journey is to re-visit our pain. But once pain has been felt, it is vital that we do due diligence to remember rightly what has been done to us. If we are truly to forgive, we must accurately reflect on the grievance that occurred in order to truthfully confront what actually happened.

Think for a moment upon that person who wronged you. Think of what occurred, what you felt, how it happened, and then ask yourself this question; “Is it possible that in trying to justify my side of the story, I’ve been been wrongly remembering how things actually occurred?” In the case of the story with my friend, I one day was confronted by one of our mutual acquaintances with the thought, “Yeah, he’s wronged you in ways that need to be addressed. But does that mean he’s as horrible as you say he is?” One of  most important steps to remembering rightly is to see in the face of your enemy the very image of God that you share. Remembering rightly is hard work. It means letting go of some of the vindication you probably held on to. It means letting go of the excuses you’ve been indulging in because of “how truly wrong that person was”. It means beginning to forgive, because you recognize you yourself has harmed others, and that this is our only hope if we ourselves are to live before the grace of God. The road to remembering rightly is difficult and dangerous, winding and weaving before each of us as we struggle to that bliss of sweet release when forgiveness sets in. We cannot do it alone. Would you take the opportunity, with forgiveness fresh on our minds and hearts, to seek out a trusted friend or guide to help you ask the question, “Have I been remembering rightly that thing which occurred?” May we journey together into this new season of Lent with forgiving hearts, as we ourselves have been forgiven.

Grace and Peace,

John and the Practice team.

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