How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget: 5 Things You Need to Know



Footprints in the sand

removed by incoming tide

total forgiveness


Wendy/ 2015




How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget: 5 Things You Need to Know

1.Take Charge: Memories of past hurt and/or betrayal sometimes behave like rambunctious children in the back seat of the car you’re driving. Being on Route Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’ll never experience potholes along the road. When your emotions shift into high gear, you need to—take charge. Remind yourself you’ve already chosen to forgive. You’ve made the choice, and the rabble rouser trying to backseat drive will have to yield to your resolve to do the right thing. Peace and poison cannot reside together in your heart. It’s one or the other.




2.Take Care: Sometimes we struggle to forgive because we need to take better care of our emotional, physical, and/or spiritual health. To follow Christ and to be Christ-like requires us to do as He did. He frequently spent time alone with God. If He needed to have a quiet time with the Father, then you know we need it all the more. Eating, sleeping, and exercising in moderation are crucial for both mental and physical health. Finding sources of kindred encouragement by reading godly books about whatever type of pain or abuse you’ve experienced can provide the validation and inspiration you need to move forward. It’s never a good idea to bury the past without having gone through all the stages of grief. Taking care of yourself requires acknowledging your injuries and seeking out the appropriate help. It’s comforting and reassuring to know you’re not alone.




3.Take Control: We don’t have to live with or spend time with an abusive person. If the abuser is stuck in denial about his/her harmful ways and refuses to get help and enter recovery, then you need to take control of your own life and set up secure boundaries. In extreme cases this may require the help of professionals. There are laws to protect us. But they only work when they’re applied. Speaking up and reaching out for help will set the system in motion. Sadly, in severe situations (such as extreme narcissism) this may require more resources than what’s available for free; in which case one would benefit from becoming as informed as possible regarding a particular spectrum of behavior. Knowledge is power. And prayer is your best weapon of defense.




4.Take Count: We need to remember to count our blessings. If you’ve forgiven a good-willed person who has repented from their prior behavior, you’ll need to stay focused on the full half of the glass. No one likes being under constant surveillance or suspicion. Believe and rejoice in the blessings you see. If you’re always watching out for a relapse, or evidence of an impending one, you’ll miss out on joy. God’s in control. You’re not responsible for someone else’s behavior. Trust God to let you know if something’s afoot and stay in the moment. Count every single blessing. Discount doubt unless God has made it clear there’s a problem. I’ve never regretted believing the best. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit can alert a parent or spouse about an issue that needs attention. Wait on the Lord.




5.Take Counsel: We need to listen, learn, and live each day as a student of life. Take counsel where you sense God is nudging you to. Just today, before I began working on this article, I felt the nudge to tidy the kitchen during a Focus on the Family radio broadcast so I could be built up in my spirit as I worked. Sure enough, God had some timely counsel for me to hear. Joy overflowed as I received confirmation about a question I’d been mulling over for days. There are a variety of ways to take counsel: wise friendships, radio programs, sermons, bible studies, care-groups, pod-casts, blogs, and gotta love em’—books (especially the Bible). And of course, don’t forget to allow for time in your prayer closet to hear the Spirit’s counsel upon your own heart. He cares. In fact, one of the Holy Spirit’s names is Counselor (see John 14:26).

Take charge, take care, take control, take count, and take counsel.

Blessings of Total Forgiveness ~ Wendy

It’s your turn—do you have anything to add?

What helps you stay on Route Forgiveness?


These photographs are from a recent weekend retreat our family shared together.

My oldest son took the above sneak shot of my husband and me.




72 thoughts on “How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget: 5 Things You Need to Know

  1. Wise advise, Wendy. Actually, I think it’s important to not forget. It helps me forgive by stepping into the other person’s mind/shoes to try and understand why certain actions were logical. When I try to understand, sometimes I do, That makes it easier not to lay blame. And when I don’t blame, I can forgive.

    1. I agree, Diane. It’s helpful to “step into the other person’s mind/shoes”. After all, we would appreciate the same grace applied back to us when we have hurt others. It’s a win-win to be mindful instead of just mad. ❀

  2. This is lovely, Wendy. Thank you. The photos look like the view I have just ten minutes from my house near Seattle.
    I had a profound experience of forgiveness which has stayed with me some thirty years. I had tried and tried to forgive someone and finally I prayed, “God, I can’t do this. You have to forgive her in my name.” I was overcome by a sense of relief. From that time on I stopped obsessing and the need to stay the victim is gone. I rarely think of her.

    1. Rita, that’s beautiful. Have you ever read anything by Corrie ten Boom? She had an experience where a former prison guard, from a concentration camp, asked for her forgiveness and she was flooded with memories of cruelty the man had subjected her sister and her to. She asked God to help her to forgive, and His power flowed right through her arm as she stuck it out and shook hands with him with sincere forgiveness. You’d love her stories. ❀

  3. A lot of wisdom here, my friend! There are a good many things that have tried to hijack my wheel over the years, but, when I bring it before the Lord, He never fails to remind me where He has brought me and mine. Prayer and replenishment in Him are key. And I hope I never forget, honestly, where I once was. I never want to leave gratitude behind. Bless you, my dear. Thanks for sharing these important truths!

    1. Thank you, dear Marisa. Your words, “Prayer and replenishment in Him are key” says in all in a nutshell. I need Him every hour. We’ve been forgiven, we also must forgive. ❀

  4. Reblogged this on kathleenduncan and commented:
    Many of us who have buried our child have another person or persons to blame. Or so we may think.

    Ron and I never blamed the driver. Blaming would not help us heal. Forgiveness would.

    Not everything in the article applies to all, but please read it and see if it applies to your situation. Forgiveness can be a first step in healing.

  5. Great post Wendy, and wonderful photos. You mentioned setting boundaries in point three; I’d like to add to that. I not only need boundaries, I need to create margin. Building boundaries too close to the edge of failure can at times tempt me to scale the wall. Margin keeps me a safe distance from temptation.

    1. Thank you, Gene. As always, you’ve got me thinking deeply. I suppose a margin can be the safe shallows we linger in without stepping over the drop-off. Some relationships don’t have to be all or nothing. Wisdom and grace help us define what a healthy margin is or isn’t. And it may need to be adjusted as circumstances change or grow. ❀

  6. Great post/advice, Wendy. I really learned a lot from reading the comments too (You have wise readers).
    I think it’s so important to pray for those we’re forgiving. It’s really difficult to pray for those who have hurt us, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to pray for them. It may or may not change them, but it will make us more Christ-like.

    1. Speaking of wise readers, Bill, you are one of the best. I’m honored by your comments and those of others. I agree wholeheartedly with your advice to “pray for those who have hurt us”. I’ve always liked Richard Foster’s quote: To pray is to change. Prayer changes the prayer. And when Jesus told us to pray for our enemies—you just know He’d want us to pray for everyone else too. ❀

  7. Lovely pictures Wendy, wished I was there!. 🙂
    This post is simply phenomenal. Forgiveness is key to sound health and sometimes one of the most difficult things to do. I forgive quickly, but I when I still have memories of the wrong, I turn to the Holy Spirit who helps me deal with any residue of resentments that could clog my mind. After a while, I even struggle to remember that I’d been wrong. I think the Holy Spirit seals our minds and helps us cope.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    Love and blessings to you! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Seyi. ❀ I like your reminder for us to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. He is our strength when we can’t do the right thing on our own. He’s gentle like a dove—so I need to pay attention or I’ll miss His offers of help.

  8. I firmly believe that He places “just enough” of what I need, where I need it, and in His perfect timing … if only I am STILL long enough to listen, and REST in His powerful Word of TRUTH, HOPE, and JOY. This morning I listened to a online sermon from a dear pastor friend of mine, Pastor Ron Morrison of Hope Alliance Bible Church in Maple Heights, OH. on The Cause and Cure of Spiritual Depression. And then I behold your beautiful posting on How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget: 5 Things You Need to Know. Talk about word of God – speak … talk about denial … talk about shame … talk about entitlement, emotional-stuffing, displacement, and all of the other protective mechanisms a wiser-than-some medically trained, psychologically tainted background knowledge familiarity, and more than enough Biblically based sound know-it, recite-it, act-it, but do you really LIVE it soul searching middle-aged woman COME TO JESUS SOUL FINALLY SAW THE LIGHT!!!! I have had my share (perhaps more) of both physical, emotional, and spiritual storms of recent. I reasoned that any woman – even a woman of God – would have rights to being clinically depressed due to the situations surrounding her existence. My relationship with my Saviour remained strong, but my relationships within my church began to suffer. I pulled away from my church which was once my sanctuary … my home away from home. I no longer felt that I had a safe harbor to rest my weary soul. I could feel myself becoming more reclusive, and that certainly isn’t me. Sadder yet … no one came to my rescue … which permitted me to wallow in my sorrow and compounded my beliefs that my church was not the safe haven or rescuing sanctuary of souls that I once thought it to be. Where were the Elders and Deaconesses that I needed so desperately to reach out to me? An active member of the church … suddenly gone from their congregation … and follow-up was little to none. What hurt worse was my husband continued to serve in his usual capacity without skipping a beat. It was as if we had split apart … we were no longer a united front, but separate entities that were now unevenly yoked.
    After listening to Pastor Ron’s sermon, and after reading your blog post, I pray that I will move forward … starting today. The storms have blown my anchors from their resting grounds, and the gale force winds have shredded my sails, but my oars remain intact and I am ready, willing, and able to begin rowing toward shore and into the steady, never-changing, ever-loving, arms of my Saviour. He wishes for me to find His joy once again. I have faltered in the ways of man, but I now choose to rise to the glory of my King. Thank you Wendy for the reminder that the things and ways of man are merely temporary, for nothing truly matters unless it is for the glory of our Master. Blessed be.

    1. Churches aren’t perfect—that’s for sure (I’ve got scars to prove it). But the One to Whom the family of God belongs is perfect Love. Sometimes when I’m not feeling particularly welcome in a congregation I remind myself that the church is Christ’s. He loves us unconditionally whether or not we are part of the cool crowd. I suspect there are a lot of hurting people falling through the cracks of church pews.

      The church body needs you—needs me—needs all of us. There are people we can bless in a way no one else can. I’m so glad your “oars remain intact and…ready”. God has plans to prosper you and reach others through you, dear friend. Your set aside time can be—will be—used for good.

      R.T. Kendall says we can be blessed in proportion to what we’ve forgiven in others. I love that thought. It motivates me to walk in love. Blessings & hugs. ❀

      1. Wendy, thank you for your reply to my comment … you truly are the wind beneath my wings so many times when they become too heavy to fly with burdens that need to be left at the foot of the Cross. Your beautiful soul reminds all of us that forgiveness is man’s redeeming mercy – might we be reminded that it should flow both to and back … much like the blood of Jesus. Blessed be.

  9. Excellent points, Wendy. We are slaves to our anger and past – and the offender – when we remain in unforgiveness. Beautiful opening metaphor with the water over sand.


  10. Thank you for this post. My childhood was a nightmare, and that rowdy child keeps getting out of his back seat, and trying to climb to the front. I am going to print this blogpost out, and put it in my life notebook. I also re-blogged it on my own blog.

    1. Thank you, Wanda. I’m so sorry your childhood was painful. Children need security and love. I’m thankful for a God who can take us and our past and make something marvelous to reveal his glory through. I’m honored you find this helpful. I’ve learned so much from so many good authors such as R.T. Kendall and others Focus on the Family has interviewed over the years. Blessings. ❀

    1. I agree the journey can be long. It took me several years to truly let go of all the anger I had towards a drug dealer who played a roll in the death of a teenage relative I lost. My anger spread towards anyone who even smelled of drugs. It’s nice to be free. May God grant grace, recovery, and deliverance to those who use and sell garbage. Now I’ll go check out the link you’ve posted. Thank you—I love happy endings. ❀

      1. And we have seen great examples of forgiveness from the Charleston families. How many of us are able to live up to this: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” May God grant us all grace, recovery and deliverance.

  11. Wendy, such wise counsel. My favorite: “[Jesus] needed to have a quiet time with the Father, then you know we need it all the more.” Good to remember when I don’t ‘feel’ like sitting down to write in my prayer journal. 😉

    1. I hear you, Susan. I’ve never regretted keeping my quiet time date with God. But I’ve temporarily lost my peace when I’ve ignored the nudge to meet with Him. ❀ I love how gracious and patient He is to top us up when we finally do show up.

  12. You can forgive, even though you may not be able to forget. I try to remember to “do unto others” when the going is especially hard. After all, taking the high road doesn’t mean you need to let yourself be trampled on. 🙂

    Lovely photography as always, Wendy! <3

    1. Jennifer, I appreciate your reminder that “taking the high road doesn’t mean you need to let yourself be trampled on.” <3 It serves good to no one, and parents especially need to model healthy relationships to their children. Normalizing spousal abuse is not smart. ❀

  13. What a wonderful blog post, Wendy. All of us from time to time experience the need to forgive, set boundaries, pray and meditate and then move on. Many will draw strength and wisdom from this post.

    1. Thank you, dear Mary. You’re right, we all share similar struggles and victories. And the Source of Grace is available to everyone who seeks. Blessings on your weekend. ❀

  14. To forgive doesn’t mean we forget. Forgiveness is even more powerful because we haven’t forgotten, but we won’t hold it to their account. There is no amnesia involved. It is a choice. To forgive someone else is to see a bit of what God experiences. He has forgiven us so very much. We forgive others because he forgave us. – Thank you for this thoughtful post, Wendy.

    1. Karen, I love your words, “To forgive someone else is to see a bit of what God experiences.” Deep, profound, and moving. Undeserved, unearned forgiveness given in true Love. This, perhaps, is one of the greatest miracles we can experience or offer. ❀

  15. Wendy wise words but I cannot say how I would react under challenging circumstances. I have heard there is power in forgiving someone but I hope I never have to find out.

    1. Kath, to forgive, even when the person who did the hurting has not acknowledged or apologized for their actions is to open the door of one’s cage and fly off someplace beautiful. Light, love, and life. ❀ It’s a good choice.

  16. Wendy, this is beautiful. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. We know if forgiveness is important to God, it must be important to us, as well, and He’ll give us the power. I love the photo of you and your husband together … you look so tiny next to him. So sweet.

      1. I know he is. Yesterday, we were driving home and my oldest said, “It’s so green.” The grass is still green … everything is alive and beautiful from all the rain we’ve received. Everything has usually turned brown by now. And I thought of you and how you love green. 🙂

  17. Great and needed post!
    Taking Charge and seeking help: I remind my self that I am forgiven and that I have forgiven. Reminding and speaking to my soul that “I have forgiven” works well for me. Also, anything or any person I find difficult to forgive, I seek the help of God to create in me a forgiving spirit.

    1. “I have forgiven” is an excellent shield against the temptation to give into bitterness. Praying for our ‘enemies’ also sweetens our spirit. Thank you for this good advice. Forgiveness is a choice. ❀

  18. Wendy:
    Eagles remind me that in the face of adversity, to rise above the strong turbulence [distractions] and soar above the winds of adversity. Like you say, the Lord will bring us to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us in various ways, through His word in the bible or the Rhema words his people share. It is so important that we give the moments of divine inspiration [as you so wonderfully share with us], because God use his people to share his ways of healing, understanding and wisdom. We need to be biblical friends to each other, what a wonderful way to show God’s love. Just as these points direct to the ways of deliverance from adversity in our live [in all the ugly ways it rears it’s head], if we take the good courage God give us and make that first step of faith in Him…we really do set Love in Motion. Time and time again…we must walk it out, it get’s better as we realize that when we release our cares into His capable hands, He is faithful to send us His unfailing love and in that it begin His goodness and tender mercies upon our heart and mind. We can pay it forward… because His love is an overflowing well. I am reminded of the old hymn… “Spring up Oh Well. Within my soul. Spring up Oh Well And make me whole. Spring up Oh Well And give to me. That life abundantly.”

    God richly bless you, dear Wendy! ~Zoey

    1. Zoey, I especially like your words: “…when we release our cares into His capable hands, He is faithful to send us His unfailing love.. We can pay it forward… because His love is an overflowing well.”

      Amen, dear sister. I want to tap into that well daily, hourly, and forever. Thank you for your wonderful contribution to this discussion, Zoey. ❀

    1. Thanks, Theresa. One pastor/author says the journey of forgiveness is like climbing Mount Everest—few try and succeed, but it’s a wonderful view from the top. ~ R.T. Kendall ❀

Leave a Reply