“Don’t you want it to heal!?” I asked this after noticing my daughter had peeled the scab off of her scratch again. Evidently she did not understand the purpose of the scab.
It may be itchy, hard, unattractive, and an outright contrast in texture and appearance. But it has a purpose. It protects our wounds from infection and allows new skin to form.
Scabs do for our wounds what forgiveness does for our hearts. Forgiveness is hard, unattractive, and an outright contrast to what comes as a natural response when someone has hurt and mistreated us. But at some point, it will come up. And it has a purpose. Forgiveness protects those vulnerable areas of our hearts and minds from being infected with prolonged debilitating bitterness and anger while a new healthier mindset is formed.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 NIV
I’ve heard it said that “I will forgive, but I won’t forget.” I understand. The phrase “forgive and forget” isn’t even in the Bible. Now, before you get too excited, know this: the Bible does teach us that “love keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). But I think our issue with this “forgive and forget” notion is rooted in a misunderstanding of what it means to forgive and “keep no record of wrongs” or “forget.”
The goal is not to forget intellectually. Just as I will always remember 2+2=4, unless some cognitive disability sets in, I will always remember certain offenses. God is all-knowing. He has not forgotten that we are sinners saved by His grace (Romans 3:23). But He chooses to forgive us our sins and not hold them against us once we accept His gift of salvation (Hebrews 8:12). Therefore, the fact that I am able to recall the events that wounded me does not mean I have not forgiven. The “forgetting” aspect of forgiveness is the choice to not hold the offense against the individual any longer.
Forgetting is, figuratively speaking, choosing not to place that bullet in the chamber as you contemplate pulling the trigger of retaliation aimed at that person. Forgetting is putting the gun down and allowing yourself to walk away—without handcuffs or a record! You see, we feel like they walk away free. The reality is you walk away free and true to yourself, your standards, your convictions. No matter how legitimately hurt and scarred you are, forgiveness says you will, at an appropriate pace, specific to your individual needs, move forward rather than allow this event to turn you, a victim, into a victimizer (Philippians 3:13).
I was hurt by someone. I thoroughly processed my experience and sought the help I needed to fully recover. This involved me actively refusing to become the foul-mouthed, violent, bitter woman their actions could have led me to become. I had several opportunities to retaliate and lash out. That “forgiveness” idea was a nuisance. It was unattractive. It was a direct contrast to what felt natural and justified. But I wanted to heal! And forgiveness was indeed a part of that process. A vital part. It was hard, but it worked.
It’s natural to want to pick at our physical scabs. They itch! But the itching is a sign that healing is occurring. If we pick at it, the healing process is halted and must start all over again.
It’s also natural to want to pick at our offenders by refusing to forgive. They hurt you! Well, the energy you spend grooming your anger and bitterness towards them is also hurting you. If there is an element of justice that needs to be served, allow the Lord to handle that! Alone! You focus on healing. The urge to attack or pick can be controlled by seeking Godly counsel, praying, immersing yourself in scripture and support groups. At some point the “scab” will form. Let it do all that it is designed to do. Don’t peel it off. It may itch. Remember: it’s healing. The longer you go without picking at it, the more progressive and thorough the healing will be.
You may always have the scar of remembrance. If so, let it remind you of not only the time you were hurt, but also the time you were healed and set free—the time you forgave.