Dale Partridge, Forgiveness, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Authority

The Not so Simple Act of Forgiving and Forgetting

Dale Partridge posted his thoughts on forgiving and forgetting on his Facebook page.

When we hold on to repentant sin and keep a record of wrongs we nurture bitterness, resentment,and an injured soul. Blot it out, put it away, and set it aside as Christ has done with you.

To truly forgive also requires our labor to forget. Like Christ, He lays our repentant sins on the bottom of the ocean floor not on the back of His mind. (Micah 7:19)

There is a time to forgive and a time not to forgive. The longer I’ve lived and the more stories I’ve listened to, I’ve come to the mindset that we should never force or shame someone into forgiving when an offense has been made. Forgiveness can be hard and complicated and I think it’s up to each individual to determine if forgiveness is required and when to offer forgiveness.

While forgiving can be beneficial to us and may come when the time is right, should we really expect to forget offenses? Our brains aren’t made to forget; they’re made to retain memories. I’ve often wondered why Christian leaders express a simple notion of putting aside or throwing away an offense.

Victims who hear this type of teaching and struggle with the affects of trauma may feel an extra level of shame if they are unable to forget the offense like God forgets the offense.

A victim of trauma will not be able to forget the offense because of how trauma re-wires the brain. Victims and survivors daily live with the affect of trauma on the brain. There is no forgetting trauma when you are trying to survive each day. How is one supposed to “blot it out,” “put it away,” or “labor to forget?” Victims who hear this type of teaching and struggle with the affects of trauma may feel an extra level of shame if they are unable to forget the offense like God forgets the offense.

There is a valid reason for not forgetting an offense; not forgetting helps you to become more resilient and not be victimized again. I clearly remember sermons I sat through over ten years ago where the pastor was yelling at everyone and boldly challenging that he was appointed by God to be in his role. Why would I want to forget that incident? I have vowed to myself that if I ever hear a sermon like that again to stand up and walk out. Why would I want to place myself in that situation again?

I clearly remember conversations with a narcissistic family member. I remember how I felt when words were turned back on me. And, I clearly remember the day that I set strong boundaries with that person. Remembering words, actions, and feelings in this situation helps me to recognize patterns in people that are similar. These red flags help me to determine how much time and energy I want to invest in people who might harm me.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:19

If God really wanted us to forget offenses then why do we have the Bible? Think about it. According to Partridge, God (he says Christ; Micah refers to God) lays sins at the bottom of the ocean.

The Bible is full of stories about people who sinned. If God really forgets all sins then we shouldn’t have these stories in the Bible. They should be hurled into the abyss never to be told or thought of again. These stories are in the Bible to serve as reminders of how God expects his people to live. He says, “Don’t be like that guy,” throughout the whole book.

Some here have been told by Christians and church leaders to forgive and forget those who harm you. I hope you find the freedom to walk away from this over simplified lie. Making the decision to forgive takes time and is hard to work through. Use memories for your good – to gain strength, resilience, and compassion as you interact with others who enter your life. Your healing is unique and individual and cannot be solved with a simple “forgive and forget.”

24 thoughts on “The Not so Simple Act of Forgiving and Forgetting”

  1. After the church abuse I experienced in a NAR church, I learned that we aren’t supposed to forgive when the person has not repented. Read the Bible! We should release that person to God. This was learned thru scripture and a Christian counselor. I do not hold hatred in my heart because that would only hurt me but forgiveness is not biblical requirement.

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  2. We should never forget. Anger protects us, warns us, motivates us to prevent the thing that angered us from happening to us, or to anyone else again. Perhaps it’s rage that we need to be rid of, but we need our anger, need to be able to focus it, to turn it into a tool for creating change. Anyone who tells us that we always have to let go of our anger does not have our best interests at heart, only their own.

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  3. Dear Dale,
    Let’s run a little experiment. You come over here and I’ll jam your fingers in my car door, hard. You are not allowed to yell out in pain, grimace, or – God forbid! – say a swear word.
    As a wise(?) man once said, “Just blot (the experience) out, put it away, and set it aside. . . “.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s destructive theology. Abuse is often a pattern of wrongs repeated over time. Much of my spiritual abuse was like that – a lot of minor incidents that had a pattern of making me and others feel incompetent. But, if someone comes to the church and lists a bunch of infractions, they’re labeled as petty and unloving – “not keeping a record of wrongs”.

    Another one is “gossip” which is defined to be anything bad about someone else.

    These two together give the churches theological justification to ignore offenses, ignore victims and victim blame when the truth comes to light.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. His pinned tweet is this: “100% of divorces are caused by people who want to do marriage their way and not God’s way.”

    I guarantee this guy remembers the last time he thought a woman in his life got one over on him or something, (would have said wife but his website is not updated so I can’t tell you if he is married.)

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  6. If we are to forget sins of which one has repented, what do we make of Paul’s instructions for deacons and elders in 1 Timothy and Titus? What do we make of Jesus who “did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew what was in a man”? (John 2:24) What do we make of Paul telling the Corinthians “and such were some of you”? In each case, we infer that our Savior and the Apostles had some memory of sins committed, and presumably from which the sinner had repented.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for bringing this false teaching to the forefront.

    Dale is wrong on several fronts, but I will point out one common incorrect teaching in particular: In I Cor. 13, while many insist that “love… does not keep a record of wrongs,” this does not mean forgetting offenses committed against us. “Forgive and forget” is not biblical.

    In I Cor. 13:5 where we commonly read “[love]… does not keep a record of wrongs,” that phrase literally reads, “[love]… does not impute evil,” which means, “Believes no evil where no evil seems. Love never supposes that a good action may have a bad motive…” [Adam Clarke’s Commentary] We should not magnify minor offenses and attribute evil where evil does not exist. This has nothing to do with forgetting genuine harm committed against us.

    In fact, in terms of investing our energies wisely, Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6) He makes it clear that it is wholly unwise to present ourselves to people we have little or no cause to trust… We are called to live according to the truth, which requires remembering what some people have done and exercising discernment given us by God.

    Just as we see here, If something taught by these know-it-alls doesn’t seem quite right, we need to take the time to hold their teachings up to the light of truth.

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  8. Kathi, you wrote, “I’ve often wondered why Christian leaders express a simple notion of putting aside or throwing away an offense.”

    I wonder if it’s because it makes their job easier. The mean ones can continue to hurt people with no expectation of change. And those who may be well-meaning but naive/inexperienced/overwhelmed don’t have to go through the emotional and time investment of walking alongside others who are “still” hurting after an “appropriate” (whatever that means) amount of time has passed.

    But I don’t think ALL the blame can be placed on just Christian leaders. It makes life easier for lay members, too. I used to not be able to understand why people couldn’t just forgive and forget, either, until it became personal with my own traumatic experience.

    But then again, if a leader is truly walking alongside and fellowshipping with ordinary people in both the ups and downs of life, which is theoretically a big part of their job description, you’d think they’d figure out that it’s not that simple, wouldn’t you?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “You’re just bitter and unforgiving,” is a favourite accusation christians hurl at survivors if they dare to talk about the abuse they suffered. Like this guy’s ‘advice’, it’s just another silencing technique aimed at protecting the perpetrators and maintaining the status quo.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I led a small group at church that focused on the topic of forgiveness, and found Lewis Smedes’ ideas compelling, and healing. Not everyone felt the same, but we were all challenged in a good way, and the result (for me) was forgiveness became something more authentic, honest, and doable, as opposed to a commandment/requirement that led me to a lot of hypocritical and symbolic “forgetting” and such.
    https://smile.amazon.com/Art-Forgiving-Lewis-B-Smedes/dp/034541344X/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1CZ2ZCECRJLCT&keywords=smedes+forgiveness&qid=1576190681&s=books&sprefix=smedes%2Caps%2C201&sr=1-2

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  11. Healing from trauma takes time – and that includes getting to a place of forgiveness – yet so many believers, rather than coming alongside to “weep with those who weep” instead add a cruel measure of guilt to others’ very real burden of pain.

    I know many who have walked away from their faith (even if temporarily), having been wounded and then shamed because they haven’t reached a place where they can fully forgive yet. Tragic.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Excellent article and comments. So grateful for internet ministries who have assured me I’m not imagining the “snubbing” of professing Christians concerning my life. It’s still difficult as the drama appears more bleak. Praying for all who need His assurance of love, strength and compassion. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I know it’s not popular among Christians to say you don’t need to forgive, but I think that you really don’t have to. Neither of the people I mentioned above have come to me, expressed their wrong behavior, and asked forgiveness from me. Because of this, I have yet to forgive.

    Forgiveness can be an important step in healing, so I’m not downplaying the role of forgiveness. If forgiving an offender, even when not requested, brings healing, then please do that. I’m tired of the notion, though, that one needs to simply forgive and forget. It’s ridiculous and places too much of a burden on the one harmed.

    And to imply that you truly haven’t forgiven if you don’t forget the offense (which we all know means you just don’t talk about it again) is ridiculous too.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Neither of the people I mentioned above have come to me, expressed their wrong behavior, and asked forgiveness from me.

    I actually someone who did me wrong (not serious abuse or anything but it was painful at the time) pop back around 3-4 years later with an apology recently. He was kind of vague about what he did wrong, though, which I thought was off, but he did apologize. I think I told him I was glad he apologized but it had been a long time and I didn’t really need to talk about. I don’t know if I forgave him exactly, but released him i guess?

    The only thing that really made me feel better was time and distance, but forgetting isn’t really an option and I dont want him in my life so what does it matter? I don’t actually understand the idea that you are supposed to ‘forgive and forget’ with everybody. That seems absurd and impossible.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Dear Dale:
    “The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.”
    Amos 8:7
    (And he wasn’t talking about good $tuff)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Let me unpack- we have one prophet saying God will throw Israel’s sins to the depths, and another one saying he’ll never forget. What to think? Someone correct me, if I am wrong, but there are approximately 2 verses in the Bible where forgive and forget go together— in Jer 31 and quoted in Heb 8. And it’s God who will do this in the future. To make this a command for christians to forget sins is a great stretch. They can’t do it by trying. I guess they could ask God for miraculous amnesia. Forgiving sins, OTOH, is commanded by Jesus, so somehow I assume THAT one must be possible— and different from forgetting.

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  17. Forgiveness releases the one who has harmed us from the natural consequences of his or her offense (I’m not referring to righteous, lawful consequences as appropriate). More importantly, I think that when we finally reach a place where we can forgive, our trauma-based connection to our offender is severed and true healing begins.

    In my case, until I forgave my abuser and released him into the hands of God, my toxic bond to him remained. I forgave him, not for his sake, but for my own. At that point, he no longer had any power in my life. For all I know, the man may still be as noxious as ever, but I am free of him and healed of the wounds he inflicted. I think that is what God wants for all of us.

    He wants us to be free.

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  18. Cindy, I think I disagree with you here. The church creates this idea of trauma connection or bitterness to allow them to sin-level (your bitterness is just as bad as the trauma) and victim blame (your bitter attitude towards X is harming them).

    I’ve tried to reconcile what Cloud and Townsend mean when they say forgiving the perpetrator for the affects of the sin in your life. I think “forgiving” is really not the right word. Instead, I think it’s more like Peter Scazzero’s idea of “grieving”.

    When someone sins against us, there is harm done – emotional, physical, spiritual, whatever. We suffer loss through that harm. Maybe someone stole my wallet and I have the financial loss, plus the feeling of being violated and the work that I have to do to replace my cards and id. I think part of the process towards restoration is my grieving my own loss. I think the same thing happens at funerals – it’s okay to grieve the loss of a Christian. We shouldn’t fall for the lie that, because they are in Heaven, there is no reason to be sad, or that sadness and grief are somehow selfish and wrong.

    I think where we get “freedom” is recognizing that these two processes are different. On one hand, if I hold on to bitterness against another person, waiting for them to repent for me to release my emotional burden, then, yes, I’m trauma-bound to that person. On the other hand, if I’m pushed to “forgive” without reconciliation and without grief, then I’m going to feel shame and guilt when my mind is trying to feel sadness about the loss.

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  19. I’ve tried to reconcile what Cloud and Townsend mean when they say forgiving the perpetrator for the affects of the sin in your life. I think “forgiving” is really not the right word. Instead, I think it’s more like Peter Scazzero’s idea of “grieving”.

    I think this is a good thought, especially given that people sort of understand that grieving is a process not something that happens immediately. We know to expect the denial anger bargaining depression, etc…and those things happen in all sorts of orders and loops. If you don’t grieve, it’s going to be hard to forgive if you want to.

    As I mentioned, I’m not sure if I really forgave my ex even though he did apologize, but I’m not really angry about it anymore. It’s just kind of a…thing that happened. But time did that. Working through what happened, thinking about it, and accepting it did that. Him apologizing did literally nothing because the work was done, you know? There was no bond left by that time.

    The end result of grief is acceptance. That’s where we can release a bad thing. That makes much more sense.

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  20. Mark, just so you know, the toxic bond I had with my former husband wasn’t imposed upon me by any church. I felt it. As long as I gave the man any measure of space in my heart, I also gave him some measure of power in my life. And although I had been traumatized, I was not bitter. If I was angry with anyone it was myself, for staying as long as I had. That did not come from any church, either. That was just part of my journey with the Lord. When I finally released the man by forgiving him for what he had done, I was free. Perhaps my situation is unique, but what I shared was true for me.

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  21. Thanks! @Cindy…

    I probably had too strong of a reaction… My wife has told me a number of accounts where churches use “trauma bonds” as an excuse to blame victims for being unforgiving or bitter. That said, I wonder if you went through a grieving process that led you to be able to forgive, so it was more a both/and than an either/or.

    Also, I do like Cloud and Townsend’s (Boundaries) discussion of forgiveness. When we forgive someone (probably more when we tell someone we forgive them), they say, we remove their ability to repent, seek forgiveness and seek reconciliation. They liken it to Jesus – who remains ready and willing to forgive us, but we must ask.

    I had a very traumatic period when I was a kid, caused by a brother who was also suffering trauma due to lack of self-control and abusive parents. In a sense, I’ve grieved that trauma enough to not be bitter about it… but the wounds keep being reopened because the same brother wants to be the family martyr and keeps proclaiming how he was wronged.

    So, in a sense, I haven’t forgiven him because he’s never asked for forgiveness. I can’t really tolerate him, not because of past wrongs as much, but because of his narcissistic behaviors and walking on eggshells. His/his church’s belief would be that I’m harboring bitterness because I haven’t forgiven him. I suppose that in some sort of new lingo, they would say that I’m perpetuating some sort of trauma bond with him that I need to forgive him to release.

    In reality, I don’t like being around him because he lies to pump up his ego, and God help the person who dares to correct him!

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  22. Thank you for returning to clarify. It’s so interesting… forgiveness can be taught – and experienced – in very different ways. Some say our offender must ask for forgiveness, and those of us who forgive must let our offender know we have forgiven him or her. My former husband never sought forgiveness, nor did I ever tell him I had forgiven him or feel any obligation to do so. It was between me and the Lord only.

    In some relationships where someone we trusted blindsides us, even after forgiving, the wound continues to fester because it cut so deeply. It simply takes a great deal of time to actually heal… and some wounds may never heal completely in this life. No one has the right to tell someone else that they “just need to get over it.” That is between each one of us and God.

    Based on what you shared, I don’t get the impression that you are harboring bitterness, but rather that your narcissistic brother presents himself as a perpetual victim or places himself at the center of the universe, which makes him pretty unsafe to be around. In my experience, there really is no way to have a healthy relationship with such people.

    It reminds me of this quote from WarGames: “Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

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  23. In my first Christian blog, I wrote a very long post about this topic. I mentioned reading on the internet posts from pastors who seem to pressure Christians to forgive or else they won’t be welcomed into Heaven. I always felt this was unfair to guilt or pressure Christians to forgive an offense since it could lead to a lot of Christians feeling guilty about their anger and their pain puts unfair pressure on them to forgive out of fear rather than it coming from the heart. I even read articles of Christians forgiving their wrongdoers just because of that. But I do believe as Christians we are called to forgive in order to honor and glorify God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. There are plenty of bible verses tells believers to forgive. Ephesians 4:32, Mark 11:25, Matthew 6:12, 14-15, Luke 6:37, Colossians 3:13, etc. There are plenty more bible verses that mentions forgiveness. The problem isn’t forgiving, the problem is forgiveness doesn’t always come easy for some especially depending on severe is the offense. The thing is forgiving sometimes takes time depending on the person and the offense. Sometimes it could take days, weeks, months, a year or even years. Some offenses are just too severe to be able to forgive right away or anytime soon. People need time to heal from the pain and overcome their anger and bitterness and I think instead of demanding or pressuring forgiveness on others, be patient, compassionate and empathetic and don’t judge them. Most importantly is not treat forgiving as task a Christian as to do in order to earn God’s favor or a place in Heaven which is being under law and not grace. God Bless.

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