The familiar maxim goes, ''Forgive and forget.'' But how often do we try to forgive merely by forgetting? It does seem easier just to let time intervene and push the memory of some painful betrayal farther back in our consciousness until we can live as though it hadn't happened. But it usually doesn't take much to bring the memory back, along with all its original pain and the burden of continuing resentment.
The basis for true forgiveness is an understanding of the purely spiritual and good nature of man as God has created him. Man - as the image of perfect Spirit - has, in truth, no sinful element, contrary to what the physical senses report.
As we accept and begin to understand this, we realize that in an absolute, spiritual sense no one can ever really cause a hurt - or be hurt. Forgiveness, then, might be thought of as an acknowledging of this truth in spite of the outward evidence.
Seeing the spiritual logic and rightness of this view of man is one thing. Putting into practice this perception is quite another. We must be willing to follow the example of Christ Jesus, who, even when nailed to the cross, called for the forgiveness of his executioners, saying, ''They know not what they do.'' n1 He may as well have said, ''They know not what they are,'' because the spiritual offspring of God, who are His very image and likeness, cannot act contrary to their Godlike, upright nature. Perhaps his forgiveness, then, was not just a looking away from evil but a clear vision of the reason for its impossibility.
n1 Luke 23:34.
Such forgiveness is liberating. It can help to free those who would think to harm us, and free us from the burdens of continuing fear, hatred, pain, and distrust.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, describes the basis of true forgiveness in the third tenet of Christian Science. She writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scripturesm, ''We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal.'' n2
n2 Science and Health p. 497.
I've found that as we make the effort to resist the claims of the material senses on the basis of man's true nature, we are increasingly able to follow Jesus' example and forgive scientifically.
My first two marriages had painfully failed as the result of the infidelity of my spouses. I was struggling unhappily with another relationship when the light of Christian Science came to my rescue. As I read Science and Health for the first time, and saw a radically different basis for relationships, I felt courage and hope - and a strange new feeling: humility. Within a few days the damaged relationship was restored, and it developed into a marriage that grows deeper and more secure with each passing year.
This would be a happy enough ending in itself. But relationships with both previous spouses have continued to improve to the point of genuine mutual friendliness, trust, and respect.
Forgiving isn't just forgetting. It requires truly loving those who may have wronged us - seeing them as divine Love's likeness, under the control of the one , all-good, omnipotent God. Once we do truly forgive, however, the healing of hurt comes naturally, and is permanent. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: . . . And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Colossians 3:12-14