Is ‘forgive and forget’ Biblical?

Published 9:00 am Friday, July 28, 2017

By Al Early

Where does the phrase “forgive and forget” come from? Many people will tell you that it is from the Bible.

The Bible teaches us much about forgiveness, and all of it is the opposite of “forgive and forget.”

Email newsletter signup

The best I can come up with is the phrase comes from Miguel de Cervantes in his 17th Century book “Don Quixote.” The proper quote is “Let us forget and forgive injuries.”

Forgiveness is in short supply in our country today, and this is just as true of Christians, as it is anyone else.

Jesus Christ has little patience for Christians that choose not to forgive. He reserves some of his harshest judgment for those who want to follow him, but want to hold on to their grudges at the same time.

In Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Over the next month, I want to study forgiveness carefully. I want to start here because people say, “forgive and forget,” but it doesn’t happen very often, and when we do “forget,” it is only after healing.

First, there are some sins we learn from so we aren’t hurt again in the same way.

Second, God did not design us to forgive and forget, for then we hope in vain the pain will go away, and it doesn’t. At best, we learn to live with the pain. He designed us to forgive, and then let Christ come into our lives, and heal us of the pain and wounds we experienced. The healing does not begin until we first forgive.

Notice, Jesus didn’t suggest we forgive others in Matthew 6:14-15, He required us to do so. Therefore, it is something we can choose to do even if we don’t want to.

We shouldn’t wait until we “feel” like forgiving. That rarely happens. In fact, quite the opposite is far more common.

For example, one spouse has an affair, wounding the other deeply. The pain from the sin is very real and the wounds of betrayal and infidelity go very deep. I find that, usually, the faithful spouse wants the unfaithful spouse to know how much it hurts. He or she will refuse to forgive until that point comes that the unfaithful spouse has hurt enough.

That day never arrives. The wounded spouse never is satisfied their partner is hurt enough. Eventually, the unfaithful spouse realizes they will never be forgiven, and files for divorce.

It may seem that forgiveness goes against what is right and fair, but forgiveness is what sets both spouses free from the sins of the past, and allows a new future of healing and hope. Nothing else will do this. Nothing!

Is there someone you need to forgive?

Have you tried to forgive and forget for long enough?

Have you learned to live with the pain, and decided it is a wound you must bear? That is a lie!

I hope in the weeks to come you will let the power of forgiveness set you free.

Start by getting out paper and pen, finding a quiet place, and then pray this prayer taken from the book “Bondage Breaker” by Neil Anderson, pp. 221 (c. 2000, Harvest House Publishers):

“Great and glorious God, I thank You for the riches of Your kindness, forbearance, and patience toward me, knowing that Your kindness has led me to repentance. I confess that I have not shown that same kindness and patience toward those who have hurt me. Instead, I have held on to my anger, bitterness, and resentment toward them. Please bring to my mind all the people I need to forgive in order that I may do so now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Now list the names of all that come to mind. Don’t question if you need to forgive them. If the name comes to your mind write it down. Begin praying how God wants you to be free from offense, and read the articles in the weeks to come to the power of forgiveness to set you free.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see