“You sound angry. I really think you need to forgive your spouse for cheating on you. Forgive and forget. After all, Jesus did that for you.”
-Christian “Friend” to Faithful Spouse
The most hurtful pieces of advice usually have a hint of truth as does this one. We do need to forgive our spouses or ex-spouses for cheating on us at some point (e.g. Mt.6:14-15). However, forgetting it is not forgiveness.
Can you imagine this “friend” telling another friend who was raped this same thing?
“You sound upset. I really think you need to forgive your rapist. Forgive and forget. After all, Jesus did that for you.”
Most of us would recognize such an approach is cruel and far from helpful. Personally, I would consider such an approach the sort of approach a real, insensitive jerk would take. As such, I do not consider it godly.
Plus, I doubt someone who has been traumatized through experiencing rape will ever forget that experience–even if they wanted to do so. So, it is unhelpful to insist on something they cannot do–nor should they as I believe God made our brains to remember such things to help us survive.
The same goes for approaching adultery survivors this way.
As a reminder:
An adultery survivor has had his or her soul raped. That is the spiritual truth of the matter.
And trust me on this.
It is not a forgettable sort of experience.
The moment of confession is forever etched in my memory in Technicolor vividness–right down to the beige tile laminate flooring I paced crunching errant pieces of kitty litter while hearing my (now) ex-wife confirm what I already knew in my gut but had hoped was otherwise.
I forgave (and forgive) my ex-wife–i.e. it is a process.
No longer do I feel the need to punish her myself. She is God’s mess to handle.
But I will never forget what she did to me.
And that is okay. It is part of my life experience. My history is my history. Forgiveness does not entail a rewriting of our personal history.
It just means we will not seek personal vengeance on the wrongdoer anymore.
We cannot do anything about the truth of our past.
It is our past.
And it always will be a part of our story.