[Guest Blogger] Forgiving When You Can’t Forget

Robin W. Pearson: I have a decently sized scar just above my knee. My little people asked me about it, and I explained to them that it happened when I was in elementary school. From what I remember, I was jumping up and down off the curb in the parking lot, in front of my daddy’s old Ford Galaxie. He was sitting inside my uncle’s barbershop, talking with other men in the community as he waited to get a haircut. While I was playing, I tripped and fell onto the gravel and cut my leg pretty badly. After I ran inside, screaming my head off, Daddy and my uncle poured cigarette ashes on my wound to stop the bleeding. It hurt for a while, but over time, that nasty sore that once covered my entire knee healed and shrank, and as I’ve grown, it moved up my leg a bit. It’s now a smooth, glossy spot where no hair grows.

Some of life’s “falls” don’t leave a physical mark like the one on my leg, and they cause issues more serious than bumps and bruises. They leave behind something other than a soft round circle on the outer layer of skin. The scar tissue might go heart-deep and affect families for generations. This brokenness can cause a person to limp along for a while until that painful time is but an indelible memory that leaves someone feeling victorious, defeated, or merely more experienced and empty. But ultimately real healing takes forgiveness.

I’ve told my little people plenty about my life. These accounts involved a lot more pain and took more than a Band-Aid to cover the wound. Jesus had to lay His healing hand on my heart and assuage the sting of the hurt, betrayal, weakness, or failure. Without Him, I couldn’t have forgiven the person who wounded me or even myself for the hurt I’ve caused. 

Some experiences I’ve chosen to incorporate into my novels. These stories describe people who are always imperfect, people who struggle internally and externally. They portray men and women like me desperately searching for reconciliation or who need to accept or extend forgiveness to recover from what may seem unforgettable. My fictional, yet very real characters are ever in need of a touch from the Healer.

The family in my July 2022 release, Walking in Tall Weeds, are such characters. Frederick and Paulette Baldwin are a mature married couple who have one child, McKinley, and the three are all walking wounded. Fred is carrying burdens from his childhood that affect how he views the world and his relationship with his wife, Paulette. She, too, is ineffectually treating invisible hurts from her not-so-ancient history. These prevent her from connecting with her husband and now adult son. McKinley’s friendships and burgeoning romance suffer from his parents’ festering sores as well as his own tender spots.

All their pain relates to their inability to forgive. My characters resist healing; instead, they cling to their pain, allowing resentment and bitterness to set in. Choosing rather to pick and poke at their sores, they don’t allow the “scab” to form, and they begin to exchange the truth for the lie.

If Fred had the chance, he might ask the reader, “But how can you let go?” He’d think that forgiving an offense, especially egregious ones like what his family suffered, would signal acceptance or permission. Aren’t consequences for wrongdoing natural and expected? Isn’t it human to want retribution? Human, yes. But helpful? Not necessarily.

If only Fred knew my grandmother! My grandfather left his wife with a big family to raise all on her own. Many people probably thought it was an impossible responsibility for an amputee to fulfill or that she would’ve been an angry or difficult person to live with. But not my grandma. She was one of the most beautiful people in the world, inside and out. Her smile warmed you the minute you stepped through her door, and she always had something to offer you—mainly her heart. Grandma would reach into her bosom and pull out money and give out of her own need. And it was her faith that gave her the desire and the ability to do that. To recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from all she’d endured. She was forgiven, and that gave her the power to forgive.

But she didn’t forget. Her history was a life lesson for the rest of us. She told us about her past, the hard times, the pain and struggle, and what we learned was that she was whole, not broken. Grandma forgave the man who hurt her and who ultimately abandoned her. How? Because she knew the Man who would never leave her nor forsake her (Deuteronomy 31:6). Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving someone permission to cause further pain, whether it’s an individual, a family, or an entire race. In fact, it takes away the power to do just that. And forgiving doesn’t have to mean forgetting. Truly, only God has the ability to remove our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). While justice is a fair expectation of God, vengeance is only His to repay (Romans 12:19). And ultimately He will determine both.

Thanks to this scar, I will never forget that day in front of my uncle’s barbershop. It reminds me about the price of carelessness, but more importantly, it reminds me to hold close those times with my daddy and the car with the red leather seats. But it’s my grandma’s scars, her deep wounds, that taught me so much more about love and faithfulness and strength of character. About the goodness of God. I learned that to find healing, it’s not in the forgetting but in the forgiving.

Learn more about Robin W. Pearson by visiting her official website, robinwpearson.com.

A Special Thanks to Robin W. Pearson and Tyndale House Publishers for the original article and images.

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2 Responses to [Guest Blogger] Forgiving When You Can’t Forget

  1. askew001 says:

    I love the analogy about the scars in our life, some visible, some not. This article is as beautifully written as your novels. Congratulations on releasing Walking in Tall Weeds today!

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