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Good Forgetfulness

As we grow older, one of the things we have trouble with is our memories. We have more and more “senior moments”. There are all kinds of self-help books on the market and even so called natural remedies to supposedly assist us remember better. Sometimes, though, the power to forget is equally valuable and important. St. Paul wrote in one of his letters, “Forgetting those things which are past, I press on.” While it’s not clear exactly to what he was referring, I think there are several things that are good for us to forget. First of all, strange as it may sound, it can be good for us to forget past accomplishments. Many people park by some past success and thus fail to grow and achieve even better things. As Dr. William Fisher wrote many years ago in a book entitled Don’t Park Here, “Out of the satisfactions of success too often come a complacency and contentment that lull the mind, erode the will, and cut the nerve of continued effort to achieve”. It is also important for us to forget our hurts. Again, St. Paul was often beaten, jailed, his character assailed, his sanity questioned. But rather than dwell on these things with bitterness, he looked to the future. Sooner or later, all of us are the victim of some unjust misfortune. Life has its uneven places. They can come from accidents, illnesses, or the wrongful actions of others. But if we cannot put them behind us, our energy to build a better future is siphoned off and we become prisoners of yesterday. A third place where poor memory is a blessing rather than a curse is at the point of our failures. All of us fail at one time or another. If the athlete who had a bad game continued to dwell on that, he or she would might never win again. Similarly, if we let a mistake or even a serious sin define us, we will never become our better selves. If St. Peter could not have accepted Christ’s forgiveness for his denials, he could never have led the early church. Let us then, cultivate the habit of a “good forgetfulness” so that we can follow Christ into the future he desires for us.


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