False Memories

False Memories

A few years ago I had a conversation about false memories with a couple of young mom friends. They had been fretting over the fact that neither one of them were the type of mom to sit on the floor and play with their kids for hours. Being the older, wiser mom of the bunch (my youngest child was in high school at the time), I bestowed upon them this brilliant, sage advice.

“First of all, I don’t think there are very many moms, if any, who actually sit on the floor and play with their kids for hours. That’s just a bunch of hooey, if you ask me. And secondly, you need to learn the art of creating false memories for your children.”

I went on to explain what I meant about “false memories”. In conversations with your kids, maybe over lunch or in the car, say to them, “Remember when we used to play Legos for hours?” To which they will, at first, say no, they don’t remember that. But if you bring it up enough times, they will actually create a “memory” of sitting on the floor, playing Legos and all the incredible creations you made together.

Brilliant, right? (Although there are no publishers knocking down my door, begging me to write a parenting book.) It was said as a joke, but I wonder how much truth there is to the notion of “false memories”.

My friend and I got in trouble for something that I remember as being her fault. My sister was mean to me, even though I don’t remember being a brat to her. I don’t remember saying hurtful things to my husband. I don’t remember being a snotty kid to my parents. I don’t remember screaming at my kids. I remember being a good friend, a kind sister, a loving wife, a sweet daughter, a doting mother.

How many of my judgments against people have come because I don’t remember when I acted the same way? How much of my hypocrisy is because I don’t remember that I do the same thing?

I choose not to remember. It makes me like me better. It makes me seem like a better person than I really am. It makes me look like a happy, shiny, nearly perfect Christian.

But when I humble myself and remember, I recall thoughts I should never have entertained, words I should never have said, things I should never have done.  And I see my wretchedness in all its glory. The wretchedness that Jesus died for.

So I ask God to search me – search my thoughts, search my heart – and reveal to me what I choose to ignore. You can’t change a behavior if you don’t remember it in the first place.

When I do remember my past transgressions I feel shame, to be sure. But I also feel empathy and understanding and compassion for those I’ve been judging, the ones I’ve been judging for being just like me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24


Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Jennifer Mobley Thompson
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  1. Ruth on June 27, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    Nailed it, Jen…..
    I don’t know that we can. EVER have too much grace……and empathy wins over judgment….always!!

    • Jen on June 27, 2016 at 12:03 PM

      You’re right, Ruth. Never too much grace. But that judging thing is just so easy…

  2. Marilyn Bartha on June 27, 2016 at 9:53 AM

    I chuckled in the beginning as you described creating memories for your children. But, it is so hard to face the mirror of my own sinfulness and clearly evaluate my actions directed against others all to puff myself up.

    His mercies are new every morning and I need them every day. Thanks Jen!

    • Jen on June 27, 2016 at 12:03 PM

      “His mercies are new every morning and I need them every day.” YES! And it’s a good thing, too!

  3. Tara on June 27, 2016 at 4:53 PM

    Ah- so good! I remember a sermon Pastor Brian did on perfectionism and he talked about the sin of perfectionism being judgement. Guilty! I don’t mean to be judgy (I know…not a real word) because we all fall short and get through each day truly by the grace of God. I know that I’m FAR from perfect and yet if people would just do things my way (the right way-LOL)…I have a few words on my daily prayer list like “direction” and “patience” and thanks to this I’m adding “empathy”…I sent a text to this lovely lady this morning and I’ll repeat it here- grace wins every time.

  4. Jen on June 27, 2016 at 7:06 PM

    Lovely lady indeed. 🙂 And I think judgy should be a word.

  5. Diane Tarantini on July 4, 2016 at 1:32 PM

    Whoah! I thought you were going to go another direction with this. I remember the first time I got a negative response on a blog post. It was from my brother. I wrote a piece on our childhood and how a certain aspect of it made me sad. He wrote that he remembered it differently, that what made me sad, he really liked. It is amazing how we all view life events differently. And how sometimes we all are selective about what we remember and don’t:()

  6. Gretchen on July 7, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    I’m not sure where I read this (possibly in The Search For Significance), but the author wrote about how guilt and shame were a product of satan wanting to bring us down, but that a convicted heart (which can feel similarly) is a gentle nudge from God for us to tell Him that we messed up (which he knows already), and that we’re sorry and are repenting (again). The idea being that conviction is actually healing.

    Loved this post, J. Sorry it took me a while to get to it. I’ll be thinking of some false memories with which I can brainwash any future grandchildren.

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