We all need to be forgiving because we have all suffered hurts.  Hurts  give rise to anger, even to hatred, and place upon us the burden of forgiveness.  Hurts come in all sizes and shapes.  Some hurts are small and relatively easy to forgive.  In fact, such hurts do not even require forgiveness in the full sense of the word.  Ideally we should able to just  brush them off like a pesky fly which is more annoying than truly hurtful.  Some hurts, however, are very big and very difficult to forgive and impossible to forget.

No matter what the hurt, forgiving is never easy, never something that comes naturally.  In fact, forgiving can seem almost unnatural. Fairness requires people should pay for any wrong they do, for any hurt they inflict. Yet without forgiveness, without the special kind of healing true forgiveness represents, our lives would be plagued with a special kind of unhappiness.

That old phrase “forgive and forget” is misleading.  There is a story about a husband and wife that illustrates that.  It seems the husband had done something wrong, something that had offended his wife.  Long afterwards she kept throwing the incident up to him.  Finally, he said, “I thought you said you forgave and forgot.”  She replied, ‘I did.  I just don’t want you to forget I forgave and forgot.”

Some people think if they can’t forget they haven’t truly forgiven.  That can’t be right.  How can anyone forget a truly serious hurt?  If you truly and literally forgot an offense you would no longer know what you forgave. It would be like saying, “I forgive so-and-so but I don’t know why.”

There is a story that can help in this regard.  According to the story Clara Barton, foundress of the American Red Cross, was reminded by a friend of a very cruel thing someone had done to her. Clara seemed not to remember the incident.  The friend insisted, “Surely you remember how terribly unfair that was.  “No,” Clara replied, “I distinctly remember for-getting that.” If the story is true, it is a good one.  If it is not true, it is    even better because it should have happened.

It seems what Clara meant by “forgetting” was really remembering but without any rancor or hatred.  Basically that is what forgiving demands, not harboring hard feelings or hatred, not wishing harm on someone who has hurt us, not seeking revenge, but to wish that person well in spite of the offense.  That is what the gospel demands of us.