Sharon Harris is wife, mother, English teacher, amateur photographer, and gardener.

Does God expect us to forgive and forget when people treat us wrongly?


Question: Does God expect us to forgive and forget when people treat us wrongly?

Answer: An expression we hear often is to “forgive and forget”.  It is not from the Bible, but the sentiment behind it is what God does instruct us to do. This can be hard to hear. We just don’t want to!  We would prefer for people to feel sorry for what they have done because that makes us feel better. However, God would have us to move past our personal feelings because they can be deceptive and unreliable. He is training us to obey Him rather than handle things in our own way, which is usually based on our emotions.

God shows us through His scriptures that we should not wait for someone to ask for forgiveness before we set our hearts toward forgiving him. So, it is not, forgive if they ask, or forgive when they ask, but just forgive, so our own recovery can begin. Whether the relationship can be restored will depend on the circumstances and whether you and the other person desire to continue your friendship. As followers of Jesus Christ, He calls us to have a forgiving attitude even before the other person makes the first step of reconciliation. He made the first step toward mankind to forgive, even before we realized that we were living wrong. We are to follow His model:

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  Psalm 103:10-12

The Bible says it is our human tendency not to forget our hurts when we hear bitter things said in the heat of differences. We may not always remember clearly what caused the disagreement, but the pain we felt is preserved in our minds. We overlook the fact that others are watching us to see how Christians handle conflict and differences of opinion. Is our response to our pain what others, both believers and non-believers, should follow as an example?

God directed the apostle Paul to write: “I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you stood up against him, and this was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overcome by discouragement and excessive sorrow.”  2 Corinthians 2:5-8 

Jesus set the perfect example for us – above all, to love!

He forgave His disciples for not believing in Him, deserting Him, and saying they did not even know Him. He not only forgave them, but He died to take their punishment and restored their relationship with Him. He knew they had acted unlovingly, faithlessly, and fearfully, but He forgave them anyway, just as He does for us today!  Much like Jesus’ closest friends, we have not obeyed the things He has told us to remember and do. We have not fully appreciated His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf as we should, for if we did, we would obey His instructions more often! Importantly, The Bible says we will have true fellowship with God when we have forgiven others. Jesus said that if we do not forgive, God will not forgive us. Paul wrote: “…For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.”  Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15, Luke 6:37

Have you set your own mind and heart towards healing from past hurts? Even if we may still believe that someone else has done wrong, we can forgive and be at peace that we no longer are considering retaliation in some way. Obeying God means setting our own attitudes right and trusting Him to show us which steps, if any, to take next. The perfect starting point is to pray for the ones who have hurt you. When you do, God will comfort you with His peace and begin the recovery in your heart!

Therefore, as God’s elect, holy, and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another. Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. Above all, put on love, the bond of perfection.”  Colossians 3:12-14

“Forgiveness sets the prisoner free, and that prisoner was YOU.” – Lewis B. Smedes

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