Monday, August 11, 2008

Forgive Then Forget?

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 185 -186:

[Following the discussion of the details of a woman named Myra, seeking to forgive her abusive father.]

“Now, Myra, I said, we’ve talked a lot about forgiving your father. I’ve told you how important forgiveness is. But listen to me: I do want you to forgive your father, but I do not want you to forget what he did. Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting. Do you understand? Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting.”

It is easy to become confused. The Bible says repeatedly that God is able to forgive and forget. For example God says “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 21:34). But it never says that we are to do the same. We cannot. Only he can. One reason why God can forget is that there is nothing he needs to learn by remembering. There is often a lot of important information that we can learn by remembering, even though we may not want to remember.

I understood how Myra felt. I’ve felt the same way myself many times. Haven’t we all? We want to get rid of the pain of harmful things that have happened to us, and we think that the way to do that is by getting rid of the memory of those harmful things. If we can work ourselves around to believing that the hurtful incident never happened, then it can’t hurt us anymore.

Or can it? The fact is that very often the harmful effects of past injuries stay with us whether or not we consciously remember the injuries themselves. This is why we say that remembering, not forgetting, is the key to forgiveness. Only when we are clear on what has, in fact, happened to us can we deal with it effectively.

We may make connections between current difficulties and painful experiences from our past. The way a friend treats us today may trigger memories of the way our parents or siblings treated us years ago. These memories, in turn, may uncover connections to other past hurts. Many of the problems people bring into counseling stem from things in their past that they needed to remember clearly before they could deal with them.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)