Forgive yourself: ‘Pick a date, any date after February 5, 1980. Jill Price can instantly tell you what day of the week it was, what she did that day and any major event that took place. She can even tell you what the weather was like. For most of us, our problem is remembering. For Jill Price, it’s forgetting. She has a condition called hyperthymestic syndrome – automatic autobiographical recall on every day of her life from the age of fourteen on. For the average person, autobiographical memory is highly selective. We tend to remember emotional experiences or significant events like a first kiss, a big game, or an epic adventure. Unfortunately, we also remember highly embarrassing moments.

Studies suggest that just 3 percent of life events are highly memorable. So over the course of an average year, approximately seventeen experiences will make it into long-term memory. The other 97 percent of life doesn’t make the cut. Most of life fades into the black hole called the subconscious.

But that’s not true for Jill Price. Jill remembers everything. She remembers that the final episode of M*A*S*H aired on February 28, 1983. She remembers that is was a Monday. She also remembers that it was a rainy day and that her windscreen wipers stopped working.

That might seem like a gift, and it is, if you are trying to remember names or birthdays. But there is a downside, a dark side. In her memoir, The Woman Who Can’t Forget, Jill says, “Imagine being able to remember every fight you ever had with a friend; every time someone let you down; all the stupid mistakes you’ve ever made; the meanest, most harmful things you’ve ever said to people and those they’ve said to you. Then imagine not being able to push them out of your mind no matter what you tried.”

For Jill, the emotions aren’t [whittled] down by time. They a just as potent as the day she experienced them. “As I grew up and more and more memories were stored in my brain,” Jill says, “more and more of them flashed through my mind in this endless barrage, and I became a prisoner to my memory.”

A prisoner to my memory: In that respect, Jill isn’t alone. Consciously or subconsciously, most of us are prisoners of our past. Even if we’ve confessed our sin, we still feel condemned. And that feeling of condemnation undermines the fact that God is for us. We keep beating ourselves up. We keep sabotaging ourselves; we keep believing the self-defeating lies that come from the enemy and become self-fulfilling prophecies. The only exit is fully accepting, understanding, and believing the life-changing truth that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. None. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Not a trace. Not a whiff. Not a hint.

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson, IF, 2015, Grand Rapids: Michigan, Baker Books, p.28-30