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We can’t forget, but we can forgive

Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

There is fascinating new research now being conducted in the field of “Superior Autobiographical Memory.” Researchers have found a small group of people, only about a dozen or so here in North America, who remembers almost everything about their lives—truly, almost everything. For example, there is Louise Owens, a woman now in her late thirties, who can recall every single day of her life since she was 11.
I would love to have a few conversations with this small but remarkable group. I would love to see them put their near super-human powers to work, and I hope we learn a great deal about the human brain from them; but I do not envy them. No, I have a hard enough time trying to forget some of the things from my past as it is. I can’t imagine the mental anguish if I had superior autobiographical memory.
The things that lodge like splinters in our brains the deepest are those times and occasions when others have hurt us badly; when we have been wronged; or when we have been violated, mistreated, cheated or harmed. It is impossible to forget these things no matter how many times we are told that “time heals all wounds” and no matter how many times we are counseled by our pastor, priest, or rabbi that we should “forgive and forget.” Forget? No amount of counseling, therapy, hospitalization, or medication—nothing short of a lobotomy—could erase the pain from our memory banks.
The answer to this pain is not in the forgetting. The answer is in the forgiving. I don’t use the word “forgiving” or “forgiveness” glibly, because forgiveness isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t some buzzword from a sermon or a trivial, corny bumper sticker that says something like “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” No, forgiveness is the only answer because it is the only thing that truly deals with our deep, bleeding, and unforgettable hurts.
Forgiveness deals with these profound hurts with the unconquerable power of love, love that “does not demand its own way. Love keeps no record of being wronged.” Purging the records doesn’t mean we forget. It means we give up on keeping the score, and we give up on our desire for vengeance. Then we might just find that in letting go of our need to retaliate, we can also let go of so many of our painful memories.
Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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