This inequity in memory extends into our relationships. We are prone to remember the wrongs people have done to us with much more clarity than we do the positive things others have done. We keep track of various things in our lives. And while we may have trouble keeping track of our receipts and keys, we know exactly why we will never invite certain people to dinner. In fact, there are likely some people in your life that you have your radar up to keep score before they say the first thing, because you know from previous history that they are going to be a problem in your life.
The problem is not that we remember things about people, but what and why we choose to remember certain things about people. Whenever you go to a sporting event, you will find fans from both teams. As the players are introduced, the home fans will cheer for their players. When the opposing team is introduced player by player, there may be some ‘boos’ from the crowd as certain players are named because there is a history there. Perhaps that other player has had some really good games against their team. Maybe that player has been a dirty player against the home team. In this case, the fans will never forget that player. Some fans will remember that player and the specifics of that dirty play for decades… literally. They might not remember what food they had at their own wedding, but they can perfectly recount the violent penalty.
Throughout that game the fans will “help” the referees make calls. But they tend to only help the referees make calls against the other team… sometimes when there is no foul. The home fans never call out a ref for missing penalties against the home team. But they will scorch him for missing a penalty against their rival. It is like the fans have two different sets of books. One is to keep track of the wrongs done to them, and the other is to keep track of the wrongs done to them. In other words, they only care about the wrongs done to them.
In some events, like skating, you are judged primarily on how you messed up. Judges take away points for errors. This means they are keeping track of the participant's failures more than their successes. We often do the same thing. We judge people according to how they treat us. And frankly, none of us want others to do the same things with us.
When describing and defining love to the early Christians, the apostle Paul said this, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) This is a tough one for many of us. Let me say that you can’t necessarily help what you remember. Some things are just more memorable. Other things you would like to forget are brought up by other people. So you may remember the things done to you by other people, but you can refuse to remember the bad things against other people. You may remember in your head because something brings it back, but you shouldn’t remember it in your heart because you are keeping a running list.
Jesus was our example in this. Even as He hung on the cross, He asked His Father to not hold the sin of rejection and crucifixion against His enemies. Stephen, the first known martyr in the Church prayed the same prayer even as he was being stoned to death. In other words, we don’t get to choose what we will remember about someone, but we get to choose what we will remember against someone. This only happens by intention… not by accident. The enemy is working in our lives to help us make and maintain a list of wrongs. We must surrender to the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, to not keep track of what wrong others have done to us. This is forgiving. It is determining that God keeps better records than you do, and I’m sure you hope and believe that He is mercifully not keeping a record of every time you hurt Him. Let’s face it… God knows every time you have wronged Him, and He loves you anyway. He doesn’t love you less because you have a record this long (insert outstretched arms here.)
Today you will have the opportunity to keep track of every wrong. Don’t do it. No one gets to the end of their life and wishes they had kept better track of hurt. Many wish they had loved more through the hurt. Put the pen and paper away and pick up love today.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.