An often uncredited rule of survival for today is if it’s not about us, it’s not worth remembering. Unless the information we have been given has a direct bearing upon us, our activities, or other’s perspective of us, the information is quick to depart and never be recalled again. As a child though, I learned something important: utilizing a person’s memory is an act of love towards others.
When I was in middle school, my dad used to worry about me and so a standing request was for me to call him upon my arrival home from school. It was a simple task and yet I failed miserably. In fact, there were a lot of instances similar to this in which I didn’t follow through with my dad. It wasn’t a matter of willful disobedience though, but more that I simply forgot his requests. Interestingly, he never chastised me or seemed to be angry about this, but one day I began to realize this pattern. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how defining that moment was in my life when I realized how I was able to retain a lot of information and respond to it.
That moment taught me an important principle. Responding to those requests would demonstrate my love for him, but it also meant I had to remember them.
The same principle remains for any of our relationships. Our ability to remember is a direct demonstration of our love because it exemplifies the following:
- Significance: Recalling details makes a person feel as though they are valued.
- Prayer: Our memories serve us by guiding us in our prayers for others.
- Obedience: Like my example above, a person’s memory can help to complete directives and delegated tasks.
- Provision: As others share of their circumstances, those conversations can be guarded and accessed in order to provide for a person’s needs according to the situation.
- Follow-up: Finally, they can allow us to simply re-establish contact with those we haven’t talked to for awhile, follow-up about prayer requests, or check-in to see how others are doing.
Thus, our memories act as a gateway to loving those around us. If we are unable to remember anything or anyone except ourselves, how can we expect to be able to demonstrate genuine love towards them?
More so, our relationship with others is reflective of our relationship with God. Therefore, like our memories can be utilized to love others, how much more important is our ability to remember in our relationship with our Lord. Consider the need to memorize Scripture (cf. Colossians 3:16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9) or to keep the Lord’s commands (John 14:15). Like our relationship with others, we show we value God when we remember and act upon His words in Scripture, but also when we know him by knowing who he is and what his character is.
Because it is so crucial to our relationships, what can we do to persevere with our memory? There must be an app for that right? Some would say that is cheating though, however, I think there is something important in the app generation. While I would urge people to make every effort to strengthen their memories and commit information to memory when they take it in, this can be a great struggle for us. I think there is a key to recognize here: sometimes it is not about the memory as much as it is about remembering. What do I mean by such a statement? I commit to memory a lot of information, but in our sinful states, we are also very limited. So how do we compensate? By memorizing the most important information and guarding secondary information in other ways. For example, I will memorize a person’s name, but I don’t need to know their phone number or birthdate. Instead, I save that information in a secondary source that prompts me when I need it. I do the same with my schedule by simply writing down appointments right away and then reviewing my schedule the night before; this way I don’t have to constantly remember everything that needs to be done but I am also not caught off guard by forgetting something. Therefore, it’s not merely about putting everything into memory, but about putting a system in place to recall information when it is necessary, and for that, yes there are all kinds of apps.
There are aspects of developing, guarding, and maintaining our memory that are important simply for the sake of functioning in this world. Certainly, it is important to develop processes that help us to be organized and productive. However, the memory serves us in more ways than helping us to be better administrators in life. The ability to remember becomes a gateway to our ability to love. Therefore, our memories are vital to establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships for the glory of God.
Photo “Memory” courtesy of user wolfgangfoto and Flickr.