Does True Healing Require Us to Forgive and Forget?

There is a saying that we have all either heard or perhaps even used at one time or another. It is the saying, “I can forgive you for what you did, but I will never forget.” Such a statement is misleading because it genuinely says there is no hope of restoring a broken relationship. It means the offended person continues to harbor ill-feelings and that the offender will always have the offense hanging overhead. That is the way of the world when it comes to relationships and perhaps why so many friendships and matrimony bonds falter in life, but it is not God’s ways.

Jesus told a parable about a father and his two sons (Luke 15:11-32). The oldest son, fed up with working his father’s farm, demanded that his father give him the full portion of his inheritance. Talk about out of the ordinary! An estate is usually not received until the person has died. In effect, the son was saying to his father, “Hurry up and die old man so I can get on with my life. So the father gave his oldest son his inheritance, and the young man packed and set off for the horizon. The Bible says the young man went to a distant land and squandered all of his money on loose living.

It is not hard to imagine that once the young man’s money was gone, so were his so-called friends. The Bible says he became “impoverished,” or in other words, he was dead broke, hungry, and his health was diminishing by the day. One day, as he was feeding and eating with the hogs, the young man came to his senses, and he realized that even his father’s workers lived in better conditions than what he was living. He decided that he would return home to apologize for his actions and to ask his father to hire him as an ordinary worker.

When the father saw his son approaching from a long way off, he immediately ran to meet him and when the two met, the father embraced and kissed his son to welcome him home. The young man apologized for what he had done and asked to be hired as a worker, but his father said to his worker, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:22-24)

The boy’s father chose not to keep a grudge or a root of bitterness and hold his son’s transgression against him for the rest of his life. No, the father extended compassion, mercy, and grace to his son. Our heavenly Father does the same for us when we fall into temptation and commit acts of sin against Him. When we approach God’s throne with a genuine penitent or sorrowful heart, the Bible says, “He is faithful to forgive” (1 John 1:9), but God not only forgives us, he also chooses to remember our sins no more because of the redeeming work Jesus did on the cross.

“For I will be merciful to their iniquities,And I will remember their sins no more.”


When we sin, we fall out of fellowship with God, which is not to say we lose our salvation; instead, sin impairs our ability to commune with the Lord. But when we turn from our sin and ask for His forgiveness, he wipes the slate clean as if we never sinned in the first place, and we are once again in fellowship with Him. There is always a path to fully restoring our relationship with God. No matter how bad we might mess things up in life, He is faithful to forgive and forget, which is the model we, as believers, must follow when forgiving one another.

When we say we forgive someone and yet always bring to mind what that person did to offend or hurt us, we never really extended forgiveness in the first place because the pain and anguish still burn us on the inside. People should learn from their mistakes, yes, but we should never hold their mistakes over their heads as a constant reminder. That is a tactic of the devil; to keep us focused on our mistakes instead of keeping our eyes on our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, who said in His model prayer for His disciples, “Heavenly Father…, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4).

Those powerful words spoken by Jesus recognize that in the same way others have offended and hurt us, we too, have offended and injured other people at one time or another. Jesus said, “If when presenting your offering you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, first go and reconcile with him or her. Then, come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). The word reconcile means to restore, i.e., go and restore your relationship with your brother or sister in full. That is what God does for us daily when we confess our shortcomings, and that is what He expects us to do for one another.

While the wounds that others inflict on us can run long and deep, there is no wound, no brokenness, no fellowship that God’s love cannot heal and fully restore to its original state or perhaps even better than before. Jesus said all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed. Therefore, let us be encouraged to always extend forgiveness to those who hurt us, let us wipe their slate clean by choosing to forget their offense, and seek to restore our relationship in full. If the other person refuses, then consider the words of the apostle Paul who wrote:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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