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Do we have to forgive and forget?

Forgiveness can be a challenge!  The Scriptures clearly teach the need for a Christian to forgive.  Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

We learn about what forgiveness is about when we look at Jesus’ words regarding the human perception that it is okay to hate someone who has acted as an enemy, including some form of hostility or opposition.  (And it covers the times when there may be the PERCEPTION of someone being an enemy.)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless (invoke a benediction upon) them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…’” Matthew 5:43-44
So, this attitude of mind includes love, prayer and the willingness to do good.

But the imperfect human part of us may have a hard time to let go of the hurt.  If we realize that someone is struggling to forgive, we must also seek to forgive them for having trouble forgiving us.  We can certainly pray for them.

Acknowledging our mistake or hurtful behavior or words is an important first step which you mentioned having taken.  We first go to the Lord, as in 1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

A second step and another aspect of seeking forgiveness is to make sure that we are making amends. The principle of amends is mentioned in Luke 19:8: (New International Version) “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “’Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’”
This process can begin, as you mentioned, with an apology.  And it is important that we also back this apology up by making sure we are seeking to change the behavior and thought process that caused the hurt.  We are empowered at that point to go to the person we have wronged:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

Forgiveness may or may not result in a restored relationship.  What Jesus desires is True Forgiveness from a sincere heart.  Only the Lord can judge.  It is possible to claim to have forgiven and to harbor animosity even while doing all the right things and appearing to love.

It is also possible to forgive someone, holding no resentment or hostility toward them, and yet choose to not restore the relationship as it was, and to have a limited/restricted/different relationship.
Again only the LORD can judge the heart.

Forgiveness can be a process, and it may take some time.  Sometimes the offended party may need some space to process the experience.  But we must remember that we can only do what is in our power.  We cannot control another’s response.  And if the individual does not wish to restore the relationship as it was, we must surrender this issue to the Lord, and seek a forgiving attitude toward that person.  There is a loss and damage to relationships and within our own hearts when anyone holds a grudge and does not truly forgive.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9
To learn more about forgiveness listen to, “Did I Really Forgive Them?”

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Did I Really Forgive Them?