Why Having a Terrible Memory Can be a Really Good Thing

Forgetfulness gets a bad rap. Don’t believe me? Try forgetting your spouse’s birthday, forgetting to switch your license over to the new state where you live, or forgetting to set your alarm for a final exam. You’ll quickly discover that forgetfulness is not appreciated or esteemed.

But for many people, forgetting isn’t the thing that’s ruining their lives or chaining them to emotional pain. Forgetfulness isn’t withering their relationships or enslaving them to past failures. Forgetfulness isn’t the problem.

Remembering is the problem.

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Henri Nouwen writes that “One of the hardest things in life is to let go of old hurts.  We often say, or at least think:  ‘What you did to me and my family, my ancestors, or my friends I cannot forget or forgive. … One day you will have to pay for it.’  Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries, old and keep asking for revenge.”

“Holding people’s faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall.”

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Just for one moment, consider forgetfulness as an option. When I say forgetfulness, I’m not talking about removing the memory completely from your awareness – if the wound is deep enough, you will never forget it. When I’m talking about forgetfulness, I’m talking about a deliberate releasing.

Consider letting go of how that person’s words broke your soul into a thousand pieces.

Consider forgetting that disastrous failure and trying again.

Consider forgetting the years you’ve lost, and begin again, today.

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One of the most powerful phrases in scripture gives us this image:

“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…”

Straining forward. Not moving forward or walking forward or floating forward. Straining. Forgetting what lies behind always involves a fight, a battle, a conscious effort requiring every ounce of grit and determination and willpower.

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Here’s to a year of straining ahead. Of moving on to new places.

Here’s to a year remembered only for one thing: its terrible memory.

May 2012 be a year of forgetting for you.

10 Replies to “Why Having a Terrible Memory Can be a Really Good Thing”

  1. The reality is that most people CAN’T forget. My advice to them is remember and forgive anyway. Each time you do remember is an opportunity to forgive again until the sting is taken away.

    1. Forgetting is sometimes impossible. That’s definitely true. I think the question becomes, would you rather remember or forget? Many times we get to the place where, while we may not enjoy the memory, we actually begin enjoying the accompanying surge of righteous anger.

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