The word “forget” is actually a compound word (remember those from grade school?). The first word “for-” is the Old English term meaning “opposite” or “away.” The second (“-get”) is also Old English for, well, “get” or “grasp.” Combine “for” and “get” and we have “un-grasp.” This is what it means to forget. Orwell would be proud.
Is forgetting intentional or accidental? Perhaps the latter is the most common—who would intentionally forget? Is it even possible? Why do we fail to keep hold of things we are supposed to remember yet lose our grasp on things we are supposed to keep? Why do we so easily recall our regrets and have nearly no catalog of our successes? Unawareness is tricky.
Forgetting, becoming unaware, losing grasp is an elusive discipline for the follower of Christ. The Apostle Paul helps us put our hands on the principle in his letter to the Philippians, writing: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” (Philippians 3:13, NKJV). Paul speaks of “apprehension,” that is “laying a hold of” the high calling of God in Christ. Since this is the prize, one must let go of one thing in order take hold of another. What is Paul holding that he now releases? “those things which are behind.” The past.
What is Paul reaching forward to grasp? “those things which are ahead.” The future. I like what Tony Evans says in the Kingdom Man study: “you can’t change the past, but you can move into the future.”
How do I “un-grasp?” I keep this pasted in the front of my study Bible because me and my past are so intertwined, I have to refer to it from time to time (summarized and personalized from John Bettler’s article “Counseling and the Problem of the Past”):
- I believe that one’s personal past has a significant influence upon the development of his manner in life. I do not believe that a person is a helpless victim whose manner of life is determined by his past.
- I believe that a person creatively interacts with and interprets past events and incorporates his interpretation into his manner of life. I do not believe that a person so constructs his past that it has not necessary existence in history.
- I believe that the Christian should seek to interpret his past as coming from God and for God’s glory; the unbeliever will distort the event with an explanation that does not honor God’s truth. He will resist the truth and endeavor to believe the lie.
- I believe that a person is not always aware of the assumptions, values and habits which shape his manner of life. I do not believe there exists within the person an “unconscious;” that is, an unexplored and largely unexplorable entity which drive his behavior.
- I believe that exploration of a person’s past may help to reveal to himself his manner of life. I do not believe that such exploration is always necessary to produce biblical change.
- I believe that change occurs in the present. It involves “putting off” (repentance) from the distorted values and habits of a false manner of life, and a “putting on” of godly values and behavior patterns in the present. I do not believe that change occurs in the past through the reliving of past experiences or through emotional release of stored-up emotions (“catharsis”).
- I believe that God is sovereign over all events of a person’s life and works providentially through those events to make Christians more like Christ.
I pray you find this helpful.