An elephant never forgets. Just like elephants, we hang on to every little thing that has happened to us telling ourselves we can’t and won’t forget what was done or said to us by someone. As I write this it pains me to say that I’ve spent my whole life being just like an elephant; I’ll forgive but I won’t forget being my everyday excuse. My eyes were opened this morning in a big way.
Luke 23:34 is the perfect example of forgiveness. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Despite how horribly Jesus was being abused and insulted and the pain he was put through, he asked God to forgive those who were hurting him. I don’t know about anyone else, but the last thing I think about when someone has hurt me is forgiveness. I become angry, upset, hurt and if I’m being honest, sometimes I want them to feel that pain too. Each day my attitude toward the people who have hurt me evolves as I realize we all have a choice between being angry at that person or realizing its in the past and that those pieces of hurt are like a piece of stone being chipped at. Each time we feel pain, another piece is broken off to form us into the masterpiece He intends for us to be. Without hurt we remain a stone with no character, so if I take that one step further, shouldn’t I be thankful for those who have hurt me for helping form me?
When Jesus says “they know not what they do”, he isn’t implying they didn’t realize they were hurting him. Sure, it’s possible for us to hurt others without realizing we are hurting them but most of the time, we know exactly what we are doing. Revenge, right? God is just and He tells us in Romans 12:19 that it isn’t our place to get back at others for how they’ve hurt us. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” He knows our hearts and lives better than anyone and He will take care of things as He sees fit. Now, don’t go waiting for terrible things to happen to people because of this, that isn’t how God works. It could be the immediate forgiveness you show to that person that changes their heart or at least starts them on a different path. Have you ever said something mean to someone and had them forgive you before you even apologize? Whoa! How do you even handle that situation? Wouldn’t that make you rethink things a tad bit? So while they are trying to figure out what they are doing and how they are acting, you can take the hurt, learn from it and pray about it.
In the last few months, I’ve thought long and hard about the people who have inflicted pain on me physically and emotionally. When they hurt me, what was going on in their life? Were they going through a hard time? What was their life like growing up? Were they feeling lost? These questions are endless really. Just as what I’ve gone through has impacted who I am, what they’ve gone through has impacted them. Again I say, we all have a choice in how we respond to situations and who we become after them but for some people, they weren’t taught to take the high road and some felt like they absolutely couldn’t. Maybe those harsh words or punches were a result of something much worse that happened to them. Those bullied become the bully because the only way they can find to feel better about themselves is through hurting others. Can we really hold it against them then?
I’ll admit that I used to view forgiveness as weakness, like I was giving in and they were winning. Now I know that forgiveness is strength. It took amazing love, courage, grace and strength for Jesus to forgive all who hurt him. That is the kind of forgiveness we should show to all.
Here is the part that really hit me this morning though: forgetting. Not in the literal sense of course because without some kind of medical reasoning, I’m not even sure that is possible, but in the sense that we don’t act like something happened to us. Let me explain that one a little bit better before I lose you. In Psalm 103, David talks about God’s great love for us. Verse 12 says “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” The first time I read this verse I had to go back and reread it a few times to stop myself from being completely speechless. When we come to God with our sins, admit it all and ask for forgiveness, not only does He forgive us but he completely wipes our slate clean! Doesn’t that sound too good to be true? The cool thing is, its not! When we do things that we know are wrong and we hurt God, He forgives us and He forgets. Once again, let me clarify, God doesn’t literally forget the things we’ve done but He doesn’t carry them around ready to hold them against us if the opportunity arises. Those things we are hurt by are stored away on a shelf as something we only remember so we can learn and grow from them. If we forgive someone, we have stopped ourselves from being upset with them for what they did but if we ‘forget’, we stop ourselves from carrying around the hurt like a constant burden. To put it quite frankly, forgetting is a matter of learning to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and learning to not spend every single day acting like a victim. Use all the pain to build your testimony, don’t let it define you and lead others to wonder where your faith truly lies. This was something I personally needed to realize and I already feel so much better now that I have.
It’s good to know God’s not an elephant and now it’s time to stop being one myself.