Christian Home Builder - Lesson 8

Learning To Forgive and Forget

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will be able to differentiate between the decision to forgive and the process of forgetting.
  2. The student will be able to understand the example of forgiveness as demonstrated in the story of Joseph.
  3. The student will be able to name ten techniques to assist in the forgiving and forgetting process.


  1. The teacher should familiarize himself with the story of Joseph in Genesis 45 and Genesis 50.
  2. The teacher may want to consult with the text, Intimate Marriage, by Clinebell and Clinebell, relating to the chapter on "resentment.”
  3. The teacher will want to prepare a student handout sheet for their journals on the forgiving and forgetting process.


This lesson is designed to help the student understand the role of forgiving and forgetting and their essential relationship to building a strong Christian family.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Learning Experiences:

  1. Defining Forgiving and Forgetting:
    1. Forgiving is a Godly quality that extols the most grace oriented action we can take toward another person.
    2. It is a decision consciously made.
    3. We use slang for it such as, "letting the other person off of the hook” but it really characterizes a very powerful experience for both people.
    4. When forgiveness is not given, there are severe consequences to both parties.
    5. Forgiveness, therefore, involves a decision and a commitment made by one person toward another or a group.
    6. Forgetting is a process of the heart and the mind that cannot be forced or rushed.
    7. It can be assisted over time by a variety of steps. Often, we wish that our minds would forget certain situations or offenses that have occurred.
    8. Forgetting is often like the slow process of sanding off layer after layer of finish on a piece of furniture. It doesn't occur at once.
  2. Joseph - An Example Of Forgiving And Forgetting:
    1. Joseph had many things to be resentful about.
    2. Genesis 37:23-24, "So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe-and took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty, there was no water in it.”
    3. Genesis 39:19-20, "When his master heard the story that his wife told him, saying, "This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. "Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the King's prisoners were confined.” Joseph was falsely accused.
    4. Genesis 40:23, "The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Joseph was forgotten by his friends.
    5. Genesis 43:29-30, "As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mothers son, he asked, "Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, "God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went to his private room and wept there.
    6. Genesis 45:1-5, Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all of his attendants, and he cried out, "have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified of his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, "come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now, there has been famine in the land, and for the next 5 years they will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
    7. Discuss with your class the elements of forgiveness that were present in this revealing scene of Joseph. (He did not keep score. He did not live in the past. He took the initiative.)
  3. Steps To Help In Forgiving And Forgetting:
    1. Flush the past each day:
      1. It helps to put the past behind you every single day.
      2. Sometimes, all we can put behind us is a part of the past.
      3. Putting behind just a piece of the past, some traumatic or disappointing event each day, allows us to take one step forward.
      4. Living in the past everyday can simply drive you crazy.
      5. If you have trouble putting the past behind you each day, even a piece of it, you may need to get some help.
    2. See the past for what it is:
      1. The U.S. government employs thousands of historians to update and rewrite history every year. The reason for this is, history seems to be a dynamic and changing area of study.
      2. So it is with our lives. We have an inborn tendency to spin history or jade it from our particular perspective.
      3. Some experts have suggested we all have a tendency to view our own lives from a "victims” mentality. We see our way as the correct way and everyone else was wrong!
    3. Don't watch the instant replay all day long:
      1. Recently, I was watching a documentary on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Repeatedly, it showed in slow motion the final moments of his life. They played the replay of the motorcade over and over again. I reached a point where watching it just one more time made me sick.
      2. We find ourselves mentally replaying sad, disappointing, or anger inducing scenes in our mind over and over again. Like a coach watching a play again and again, we run the same disappointment in our mind. It is possible to replay those negative emotions as if it were being felt for the very first time on that occasion.
      3. Set some parameters on your worry, sadness, or anger.
      4. Try journaling in your personal journal for this class about an area of disappointment that you have had difficulty overcoming.
    4. Don't go it alone:
      1. Satan destroys us by telling us that we are the only ones that have dealt with this particular problem.
      2. Everyone has a book of pain, which represents those disappointments and experiences that have hurt them. It is what you do with that book of pain that is most important.
      3. See Galatians 6:1-5.
    5. Look for that one special person that God provides:
      1. God does move in very mysterious ways at times when we are tempted or sad or experiencing trauma in our lives.
      2. God has promised to provide us with the resources to get through any situation.
      3. When David's life was being threatened by King Saul, and it seemed like he would never ascend to the throne, God provided the encouragement of Jonathan as his best friend.
    6. Realize the pain in your past may not be your fault, but you still may have to deal with it:
      1. Living in Oklahoma City, I regularly encounter people who are affected by the Murrah building bombing. They did absolutely nothing wrong and are completely innocent of those horrible crimes, yet they still have to deal with the after effects of them.
      2. It is appropriate, however, that victims of crimes or misconduct demand what Paul Faulkner once called, "restitution appropriate to acknowledged failure.”
      3. Gordon McDonald was once asked, how often and to what extent should the repentance of a high profile, public person be? His response was, "Until their repentance is more renown than their crime or sin.”
    7. Let time do its work:
      1. People may need time to "separate and lick wounds.”
      2. It is not cowardice or weakness to back away from a situation in order to gain some perspective.
      3. David left Saul's court and actually went to the Philistines to live and work for a period of time!
      4. Sometimes with time, we are able to put things into better perspective and decide if something is a skirmish, a battle or an all out war.
    8. Take the initiative in forgiving:
      1. God took the initiative in forgiving us before we ever did anything to earn that forgiveness-in fact we never can.
      2. Forgive yourself and the other person.
      3. Don't be guilty of a fake or insincere repentance that is nothing more than a perfunctory shaking hands while gritting ones teeth!
    9. Look for the lesson in all of this:
      1. You may learn something from this experience that no one else can teach you.
      2. Most of us minister as Christians better from the hard times that we have gone through than from the good ones.
      3. Joseph's years in prison and servitude certainly "battle tested” him for the years of famine.
    10. Become a priest at the alter of pain for others:
      1. People come out of our culture today chewed up by a variety of misdeeds. They are looking for someone who can bind up wounds.
      2. Churches are now being called upon to pastor people who are dealing with problems of forgiving and forgetting more than ever before.
      3. How can or how has your church been involved in the process of binding up wounds?


  1. Defining the difference between forgiving and forgetting:
  2. Joseph in forgiving and forgetting-scripture references:
    1. Genesis 37:23-24, Genesis 39:19-20, Genesis 40:23, Genesis 43:29-30, Genesis 45:1-5 and Galatians 6:1-5
  3. Ten steps of forgiving and forgetting:
    1. Flush the past each day.
    2. See the past for what it is.
    3. Don't watch the instant replay all day long.
    4. Don't go it alone.
    5. Look for that one special person that God provides.
    6. Realize the pain in your past may not be your fault, but you still may have to deal with it.
    7. Let time do its work.
    8. Take the initiative in forgiving.
    9. Look for the lesson in all of this.
    10. Become a priest at the altar of pain for others.

Further Resources:

  1. Siemens, The Healing Of Memories, Victor Books.

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