Psychologists say that we humans do practice a sort of selective memory. We let certain embarrassing, painful, or disconcerting memories go. It is part of the coping mechanism that lets us move on with our lives. It would be incredibly difficult to have to hold every adolescent silliness or adult transgression in constant memory. I can imagine how it could be utterly debilitating.
Maybe you have heard of Jill Price. She is a California lady who is in her 40s now. She appears to have near-perfect recall of every detail of every day of her life since her mid-teens. It isn't photographic-memory recall of texts. It isn't even recall of every public event of history. It is the detailed and specific recollection of things from her personal experience that stays with her. All of it.
She has been interviewed by Diane Sawyer and Oprah, written about in both USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. There is a popular YouTube clip of a Diane Sawyer interview from 20/20 in which Price — an avid TV viewer — is being grilled on her recall of televised events she saw ranging from the "Who shot JR?" episode of Dallas to the date for the final episode of M*A*S*H. She gets every one! But she appeared to miss the date of Princess Grace's death.
When did Princess Grace die? "September 14, 1982 — that was the first day I started 12th grade," answers Price. Oops! Sawyer informs her that she got that one wrong! The correct date was September 10, 1982. Price stands her ground and insists it was September 14 — only to have a 20/20 producer break in to inform Ms. Sawyer that Price was correct and her source notes were wrong.
My first-blush reaction to reading about Jill Price was to be a bit jealous of her superb memory. The more I have thought about it, though, I'm not so sure. One piece I read is from a scientist who thinks she may have less-than-perfect memory and be cursed instead by an obsessive focus on the past. Even Price admits her vivid ability to bring up the past has some unpleasant consequences. Bad experiences linger. She still feels their pain. They disrupt her sleep.
I suspect my "selective memory" serves me better than a perfect one would. I suspect your ability and mine to let some things go and to refuse to obsess over failures and mistakes from the past is an asset to our sanity.
Then there is forgiveness — the greatest asset yet to help us deal with the really terrible things of life that won't quite fade into oblivion. My faith tells me of a God who knows all things — including every detail of my past — and forgives me.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 TNIV).