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“I can forgive but I cannot forget.”  Have you ever heard that expression?  I know I have.  Can we take just a moment to think about what this statement actually means?

  • Do we think it actually encourages restored relationship?
  • Do we think it facilitates forgiveness?
  • What sort of dynamic does this statement help sustain between the two parties?

“I can forgive but I cannot forget.”   I don’t mean to be be glib about forgiving those who’ve wronged us.  Releasing people from past hurts is arguably one of the most difficult things you or I may ever have to do.  But this statement underscores a harmful habit of thinking that will hold us back as long as we believe it.


One really strange thing about forgiving is that it is a practice that we will have to do again and again.  Holding on and keeping close tabs on the people and circumstances that have hurt you is simultaneously very human and very toxic.  With every passing day, I am convinced that there are people I must release in my life.  There are others whom I feel I have forgiven, but I simply need to do it at a deeper, more heart-felt level.  When I hear myself saying that “I can forgive but not forget,” it is a reminder to me that I have some ways to go to be a person who thinks (and lives) transformationally.


I know many people will dismiss this thought.  And I know why: because holding on to past pains feels so right.


So I’m going to leave you with an even deeper thought and something that will feel even better.  It's from Lewis Smedes: When you release a person from past wrongs you set a captive free only to learn later that the captive was you.  Who can you think of right now that needs your release?  Take the plunge have the courage to do it and then catch yourself when you “remember.” Often the people who are the most free in life are the ones who have forgiven at the deepest levels.