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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was one of the most profound poets of our generation. Even her tone of voice oozed with wisdom and keen intellect. As Ms. Angelou stated in the quote above, people tend to never forget how someone made them feel. Most will agree the old adage “forgive and forget” is great in theory but it's not practical. The counter-argument is if you forget what someone has done to you, then you will inevitably allow them to mistreat you again.
Fool me once, shame on you — fool me twice, shame on me, right?
It appears there is a consensus that forgiveness is necessary for one’s own personal liberation. But forgetting what happened… ugh, I mean let’s be honest. I am not sure if we are cognitively capable to forget certain things. Our brains literally compartmentalize memories and events. God, the creator of our intricate minds, is well aware of this. Thus, he doesn’t really intend on us forgetting right? 1 Corinthian 13: 4–5 (NIV) reads:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
It keeps no record of wrongs. Love keeps no record of wrongs. When you can’t forget how someone made you feel, aren’t you keeping a record of wrong? You have labeled and recorded in your mind to not forget what they did. May I interject here that forgetting is not humanly impossible. How is it that we can forget to take out the trash? How can we forget to put the wet clothes in the dryer? How can we forget our loved one’s birthday but can’t forget how someone made you feel five, ten, or even twenty years ago?
It’s because feelings aren’t intertwined in taking out the trash or doing laundry. But feelings are definitely involved in disagreements and deception - particularly ill-feelings. This is why it is difficult to forget. But here is the thing, remembering the wrong someone caused you is associated with your feelings. Remembering the feelings of heart-ache, anger, embarrassment or whatever negative emotion the memory stirs up, will bring forth ill-feelings.
It is a continuous cycle of distaste you will re-live every time you think about it. Every time you remember what that person did or said, you’ll also remember those ill-feelings. And If you remember the ill-feelings, have you really forgiven them? But how on earth can you forget it? Some memories we desperately want to forget but we just can’t. It’s lodge in our brains whether we want it there or not. Thus, the challenge isn’t necessarily to forget the memory, the challenge is to remove the ill-feelings. Look at the King James version of the same verse.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
As you can see it says, charity (which is translated as love in the NIV version) does not behave inappropriately, it is not selfish, it is not easily upset, and it thinks no evil. The NIV version states keep no record of wrongs but in actuality you just need to not think evil of the recorded wrong.
When you forgive someone, you may not forget with they did or said. That record of wrong may be stuck in your brain forever. Though it’s unfortunate, it’s the truth. BUT you need to not think evil of them or the memory. Do. Away. With. The. Ill-feelings. It is not easy. It is definitely a process. So how do you remove the ill-feelings? Or at minimum suppress the ill-feelings?
You do it by humbling yourself. Now, hear me out… Proverbs 24 states the following:
Proverbs 24:16–16 For a just man falleth seven times,
A just man messes up seven times in a day (this number may or may not be deemed as literal but let’s role with literal for argument's sake). A just man — a morally right and fair person messes up seven times in a day. It is quite possible that the person who wronged you is considered just in God’s eyes.
It is possible that when they wronged you, they were on fall number 5 out of 7 for that day. Their fall does not mean that they are cynical and should be avoided at all cost. Take the disciple Peter for example. Peter loved Christ with his entire being and yet he denied his acquaintance with Jesus three times. To my understanding, Peter is not viewed or considered unjust. On the contrary, his discipleship is respected and he is revered for his passion and devotion to Christ. Peter was a just man but when he denied Christ he failed.
But let’s say the person who wronged you was not just. Let’s say when they wronged you, they were on fall number 14 for the day. Matthew 18: 21–22 (KJV) reads:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven
Yep, yep. So hypothetically speaking, on the person’s 430th wrong against you, you must forgive them and do away with the bad feelings you may harbor against them. Now, of course you need to use your wisdom and discernment on whether or not you should keep associating with someone who has wronged you. I would argue that someone who has wronged you 430 times has crossed the line. Forgiveness and suppressing the ill-feelings does not mean that you have to keep someone in your life.
If you chose to not deal with someone then that of course is your prerogative. Nevertheless before you cut people off, humble yourself and realize that you have made mistakes too. You are not perfect. And even if you are just, you have fallen at least seven times today. We tend to be unforgiving and so willing to hold grudges against others. We don’t allow room for error. And on top of that, we don’t want to forget those errors either. Thank God that God is not like man!
Maya Angelou hit the nail on the head when she said people tend to never forget how someone made them feel. Memories, especially bad ones, are not likely to disappear. Yet, you should attempt to suppress those ill-feelings associated with the memory. Otherwise, that memory will always get the best of you. You will remain a slave to your hurt feelings every time the memory crosses your mind.
It may take time. It may not be easy. But for your freedom and for your peace, you need to end the cycle of hurt. You must forgive and show mercy. You need mercy just as much as the next person. Humble yourself and remember that somebody, somewhere had to forgive you at some point. Somebody has to try and do away with ill-feelings they have because of hurt you may have caused.
We all need mercy. Mercy from God and mercy from one another. So yes, forgetting the memory may not be practical but forgoing the ill-feelings is definitely attainable.
Amen. Be blessed, stay encouraged, and let the ill-feelings go!