A while back, I had the privilege of working with some kids on the story of Joseph and his brothers. Our application was that if Joseph can forgive, we can as well. After all, Joseph’s brothers seriously contemplated killing him, and only one managed to talk the others out of it. So, they settled on the “kinder” route of selling him into slavery. Fantastic. I’m sure Joseph really felt that was a better idea. Anyway, long story short, God uses Joseph to save Israel and he forgives his brothers. But, knowing these kids like I do, I wanted to go a little deeper. I know some of the struggles these kids are going through. I know what some of their lives are like outside of our kids’ ministry. So I wanted to go ahead and break up the kid-unfriendly adage of “Forgive and forget.”
The Bible commands forgiveness
Many times in the Bible we are commanded to forgive. Matthew 6:14 and Ephesians 4:32 are some great examples of that. As Christians, we need to forgive others. Harboring bitterness can hinder our walk with Christ and it can lead to unresolved bitterness, which poisons us to the extreme. We must choose to actively let go of that person’s debt against us and move on with our lives. That’s not easy, but it is the right thing to do.
The Bible never says God has memory loss
If God forgot things, He would cease to be God. He is, by definition, all-knowing. If He forgot something, he would not be all-knowing. Most Christians, when pointing out the “Forgive and Forget” quote, will reference Hebrews 8:12. The actual meaning of this phrase points to God not holding our sins against us. This is the true meaning of forgiveness. We are not holding someone’s mistakes against them anymore. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are completely trusting of that person or that we completely forget what happened.
Forgive and forget is dangerous
It’s dangerous especially to kids. A child taught to forgive and forget is going to be highly conflicted when their dad abuses them. When a 6-year-old girl is sexually abused and has to come to terms with forgiveness, you don’t want them to believe in “forgive and forget.” When someone is raped, they’re not just going to forget about it. It is very important that we teach that people must forgive through not holding a grudge, not harboring bitterness, and abandoning the idea of revenge. However, we must not teach kids that it is a good idea to continuously “forget” someone’s problems, because they will continuously put themselves in situations where the problem can be repeated. We need to be teaching them that trust must be earned back, not gained back with a single “forgive and forget” moment. While a rape victim can eventually consciously let go of bitterness and anger and forgive, teaching them that true forgiveness means forgetting is bad. People that are taught this often think that because they can’t mentally forget what happened, they haven’t truly forgiven. We must make sure that kids understand the idea of forgiveness and letting a debt go in a healthy manner instead of just telling them to “forget.”