If there was a a data erase button on the back of our head forgetting the harmful things of the past would be as simple as deleting unwanted files or emails or text messages. But, it's not to be. In fact, the mind professionals tell us that bad memories are etched deeper than good ones. So, unless we have brain injury or surgery, they're here to stay. The question is, what do we do with them? How do we ever move on?
There's a scene in the movie Donnie Brasco where Donnie, an FBI agent working undercover in an organized crime family, explains to other agents the meaning of the word fuggedaboudit. It's a pretty rough movie and I don't recommend it, especially if you have children in the house. The language even in this short segment is off-limits for most of us. But, the explanation is useful. Fuggedaboudit means---
(1) Total and complete agreement with someone
example: Yes, I love the Redskins. Fuggedaboudit.
(2) Total disagreement with someone
example: The Dallas Cowboys are bums. Fuggedaboudit.
(3) Reference to something that is the greatest things in the world
example: Vince Perone's Spaghetti Sauce is the best made. Fuggedaboudit.
(4) Dismissing someone
example: You're bad news, take a hike. Fuggedaboudit.
(5) Don't let something bother you, set something aside
example: Hey, it could happen to anybody. Fuggedaboudit.
So, what does that profane clip have to do with dealing with a painful past. Well, it may be a cheap way to get at it, but the final illustration of the word fuggedaboudit may get close to explaining one of the most often referenced Bible verses regarding our treatment of the past. it was written to the Philippian church by the Apostle Paul. It was a very personal statement regarding his own past---
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting
what lies behind and staining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal
for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13 (ESV)
Over the years this single Bible verse has been a trip-wire for many believers sincerely trying to move past a harmful, disappointing, or hurtful past. The hang-up is usually in their understanding of the word "forgetting". They can't forget. What is progressively worse, they can't find a way to move on because they can't forget. As a result, being unable to erase those bad things is thought to be a flaw in their faith. Scripture instructs them to "forget" and they can't do it. They always ask: what is wrong with me?
Paul was a wordsmith and the word he used is a big one: epilanthanomai, a compound. The main word, lanthano, means to hide something, or place it out of view. The preposition that is attached, epi, means aside or behind. So, the word "forgetting" literally means to move something out of the way. Fuhggedaboudit. Paul's idea isn't about erasing memory. It's about moving it out of the path so we can move on.
How is that possible?
1. Identify bad memories that have become obstacles for you. Paul's was no
doubt his Pharisaic past and beliefs that they would accomplish his
2. Realize that the past does not define you. Paul learned that his righteousness
was through faith in Jesus Christ and his salvation was by grace. See Eph. 1:17.
3. Know where you are going. In Paul's case he aimed for the prize of the
upward call. He knew this was not accomplished by works of his own.
4. Depend on God to give us understanding about linking our past and future.
Here he wrote, "...God will reveal that to you also..." (v. 15).
5. Find someone to walk this hard road with you. Paul advised, "...keep your
eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us" (v. 17).
In the Old Testament God's people were warned about forgetting. He wanted Israel to remember how he had led them and intervened for them in their quest for the Land of Promise. Jesus wanted his followers to remember his teaching so he sent another Counselor, the Holy Spirit, "...bring to remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:25). Surely Simon Peter would love to have forgotten his betrayal of Jesus, but the eyes of Jesus etched that moment deeply in his memory (see Luke 22:61). Even in creation God knit the human body is such a way that scars form over our deepest injuries so we do not forget them.
So, be encouraged if you can't forget those bad things. Ask God for the wisdom and strength to set them aside so you can move to the goal of his high calling.