They say an elephant never forgets. If that's true, then elephants must be miserable. I think it would be nearly impossible to be happy while remembering everything.
Think about it: every argument you've ever had with your spouse, every disagreement with your children, every insult or indignity you’ve received at work or school. All these memories lingering forever in your mind for you to replay again and again.
My fortieth high school reunion is set for later this year. The first thing I had to overcome was the word “forty.” How can it be forty years since I graduated from high school? I don’t feel that old! Then, I had to come to grips with certain memories I have from high school. As I’ve been helping with some of the reunion planning, a few people have come up who, to put it bluntly, were just plain mean to me--I still feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut, even after all these years.
I have to admit, I’ve indulged in a little fantasy in which I show up to the reunion happily married, loving my life, while the mean guys come in washed up and alone. That’s not my proudest moment. (I hope they don’t revoke my pastor’s license over that.)
While an elephant, admittedly, wouldn’t have those life events to drag him down, there is an extremely rare human condition known as hyperthymesia in which those affected possess an incredibly detailed autobiographical memory. I remember hearing about it when 60 Minutes did a report featuring actress Marilu Henner. In the report, she said she could remember everything about every day since the age of eleven. Everything from what the weather was like, to what she wore, what she ate, who she saw, and what the conversations were--she remembers all of it. I have a hard time remembering what I ate for breakfast this morning, let alone what I ate for breakfast when I was eleven years old!
I can see how having those vivid memories could be an advantage occasionally, but I think there are times when forgetting is beneficial. For example, forgetting is especially beneficial when it comes to holding a grudge against someone. Why is it easy for me to remember those who hurt me, but forget all the acts of kindness by so many who encouraged me and loved me?
Nothing eats us up inside like a lingering, festering grudge. Resentment is an emotional acid, destroying first the container that holds it. – Mark Twain
When someone hurts us, whether it is intentional or not, the most damaging thing we can do is hold onto it. People who are truly successful in life are big enough to let it go. They're too busy building the future to waste time on wrongs from the past.
Remembering may be good, but choosing to forget as part of forgiving--now that’s truly great.
God promises to not only forgive, but to forget. Look at what it says in Isaiah 43:25:
I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.
And in Hebrews 8:12:
And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.
Forgiving and forgetting. I’m praying that He will help me do both.