“Forgive and Forget.”
We hear this all the time. After seeking and receiving forgiveness from God and ourselves for our past sins or transgressions, we are counseled that we must forget them. But do we really forget them, the way we forget where we placed our car keys the other night? No. We cannot actually forget unless we are suffering from a medical condition that makes it possible to do so. Then what does forgetting really mean?
Forgetting past sins and transgressions means forgetting the pain and guilt we have felt and not letting them have any power over us. Sometimes we tend to look back and ask ourselves why did we do such a terrible thing, when we knew it was wrong. But we must not continue asking ourselves these questions because we cannot undo the past. Dwelling on our past only stagnates our progress and cripples our hopes for brighter days to come. Forgetting means letting go of the past and moving forward with a renewed commitment to follow God’s commandments. It also means turning away from the thought that Satan has power over us because we have sinned.
How then do we forget our past sins or transgressions? When the prophet Enos prayed mightily and sought for a remission of his sins, God forgave him and his guilt was “swept away” because of his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. We too, like Enos, can be cleansed from our sins or transgressions if we call upon the Lord and access the powers of His Atonement to heal our wounds and soothe our conscience. If we rely on the tender mercies of the Lord, we, like Alma the Younger, will also be able to declare that we can “remember [our] pains no more”.
While some might have forgotten the pain and guilt from past sins and transgressions, some of us might still remember them. We must know that still regretting them does not mean that we have not fully repented or we are not worthy to receive forgiveness. Perhaps it is God’s way of warning us to not commit that sin or transgression again, by reminding us of the pain and misery it can bring to our lives. It is a spiritual trigger that stops us when we think of disobeying the commandments of God. The memory of our pain and guilt is meant to protect us from going down the path of disobedience.
Furthermore, the memory of our pain and guilt does not mean that we have not been forgiven. If we feel the Spirit back in our lives, we have been forgiven or are in the process of cleansing. When we are forgiven and cleansed, the Spirit can sanctify our souls and there can be no greater testimony of forgiveness than that.
The possibility of physically forgetting past sins and transgressions, if any, is likely very minimal. But these memories from our past can become something much more as we take important lessons we learned from the experience and ensure that we stand guard and don’t make the same mistakes again. It also can become a sweet memory of the mercy and forgiveness of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, as well as the love and support of our family and friends when we were down with grief and pain. Ultimately, it can be a powerful testimony of the power of the Atonement in repairing one’s heart that has been broken by the deep hollows of sin or transgression.
As we try to forgive ourselves and forget the pain and guilt we have felt, our faith in the Lord and His Atonement will increase and our capacity to embrace our divine nature will be enlarged.