Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.
Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
Only by the act of forgiving can we live in forgiveness—in forgiven-ness. This is surely what our Lord meant when he taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…” He is describing a process—how it comes about, the way it is. He is not describing some kind of ultimatum of the Father’s, a capricious requirement he’s thought up to pester us with.
Only when we have forgiven, though, truly forgiven a real wound—years, maybe, of wounds—can we know this for ourselves. Otherwise it just doesn’t make any sense. I thank God for hurts and insults and betrayals, honestly, because if it weren’t for them I could never have learned how to forgive, and so I’d never have found the door into this particular blessedness, this wonderful freedom. Truly, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Never has this been more true for me than now, as I write this.