JEHOVAH GOD created the human brain with the marvelous ability to remember. He designed it to be a reservoir that could be tapped without losing the precious things that had been put into it. The brain’s design is consistent with God’s purpose that humans should live forever.—Ps. 139:14; John 17:3.
But you may feel that too much of what you take into your mind gets lost. It does not seem to be there when you want it. What can you do to improve your memory?
Take an Interest
Interest is an important factor in memory improvement. If we make it a habit to be observant, to be interested in people and what is going on around us, our mind is stimulated. It will then be easier for us to respond with similar interest when we read or hear something of lasting value.
It is not uncommon for a person to have difficulty in remembering the names of people. Yet, as Christians, we know that people are important—fellow Christians, those to whom we witness, and others with whom we have dealings as we care for necessary matters of life. What can help us to remember the names that we really should? The apostle Paul listed by name 26 of those in a congregation to which he wrote. His interest in them is indicated by the fact that he not only knew their names but mentioned specific details concerning many of them. (Rom. 16:3-16) Some modern-day traveling overseers of Jehovah’s Witnesses do very well in remembering names, although they move from one congregation to another each week. What helps them? They may make it a practice to use a person’s name several times when they first speak together. They put forth effort to associate the person’s name with his face. Additionally, they spend time with various individuals in the field ministry and at meals together. When you meet someone, will you remember that person’s name? Start by having a good reason for remembering the name; then try some of the foregoing suggestions.
Remembering what you read is also important. What can help you to improve in this regard? Both interest and comprehension play a part. You need to care enough about what you are reading to focus your full attention on it. You will not retain information if your mind is somewhere else while you are trying to read. Comprehension is improved when you relate the information to things that are familiar to you or to knowledge that you already have. Ask yourself: ‘How and when can I apply this information in my own life? How can I use it to help someone else?’ Comprehension is also improved if you read phrases instead of individual words. You will more readily grasp ideas and identify principal thoughts, so they are easier to remember.
Take Time to Review
Experts in the field of education emphasize the value of review. In one study, a college professor demonstrated that one minute spent in prompt review would double the amount of information retained. So immediately after you finish your reading—or some major portion of it—mentally review the principal ideas in order to fix these in your mind. Think about how you would explain in your own words any new points you learned. By refreshing your memory soon after you have read an idea, you will extend the length of time that you can retain the point.
Then in the next few days, seek an opportunity to review what you read by sharing the information with someone else. You might do so with a family member, someone in the congregation, a workmate, a schoolmate, a neighbor, or someone you meet in the field ministry. Try to repeat not only the key facts but also the Scriptural reasoning that goes with them. Doing this will benefit you, helping to fix important things in your memory; it will also benefit others.
Meditate on Important Things
In addition to reviewing what you have read and telling others about it, you will find that meditating on important things that have been learned is beneficial. The Bible writers Asaph and David did that. Asaph said: “I shall remember the practices of Jah; for I will remember your marvelous doing of long ago. And I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (Ps. 77:11, 12) David similarly wrote: “During the night watches I meditate on you,” and “I have remembered days of long ago; I have meditated on all your activity.” (Ps. 63:6; 143:5) Do you do that?
Such deep, concentrated thinking in which you ponder on Jehovah’s doings, his qualities, and expressions of his will does more than help you to retain facts. If you make a practice of such thinking, it will impress truly vital things on your heart. It will mold the sort of person you are inside. The memories that are made will represent your inmost thoughts.—Ps. 119:16.
The Role of God’s Spirit
When seeking to remember truths concerning the activities of Jehovah and the things spoken by Jesus Christ, we are not left on our own. On the night before his death, Jesus told his followers: “While remaining with you I have spoken these things to you. But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” (John 14:25, 26) Matthew and John were among those present. Did the holy spirit prove to be such a helper to them? Yes, indeed! About eight years later, Matthew completed writing the first detailed account of the life of Christ, including such priceless memories as the Sermon on the Mount and the detailed sign of Christ’s presence and of the conclusion of the system of things. Sixty-five years after Jesus’ death, the apostle John wrote his Gospel, including details of what Jesus said on the last night that the apostles spent with the Lord before he laid down his life. No doubt, both Matthew and John had vivid memories of the things that Jesus had said and done while they were with him, but the holy spirit played a major role in ensuring that they did not forget important details that Jehovah wanted in his written Word.
Does the holy spirit act as a helper to servants of God today? Definitely! Of course, the holy spirit does not put into our minds things that we have never learned, but it does act as a helper to bring back to our minds important things that we have studied in the past. (Luke 11:13; 1 John 5:14) Then, as the need arises, our thinking faculties are stirred to “remember the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior.”—2 Pet. 3:1, 2.
‘You Must Not Forget’
Jehovah repeatedly cautioned Israel: ‘You must not forget.’ It was not that he expected them to remember everything perfectly. But they were not to become so wrapped up in personal pursuits that they pushed their recollections of Jehovah’s dealings into the background. They were to keep alive their memories of Jehovah’s deliverance of them when his angel slew all the firstborn of Egypt as well as when Jehovah opened the Red Sea and then closed it, drowning Pharaoh and his army. The Israelites were to recall that God gave them his Law at Mount Sinai and that he led them through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. They were not to forget in the sense that memories of these things were to continue to have a profound effect on their daily lives.—Deut. 4:9, 10; 8:10-18; Ex. 12:24-27; Ps. 136:15.
We too should exercise care not to forget. As we cope with the pressures of life, we need to remember Jehovah, keeping in mind the kind of God he is and the love he manifested in the gift of his Son, who provided a ransom for our sins so that we might have perfect life forever. (Ps. 103:2, 8; 106:7, 13; John 3:16; Rom. 6:23) Regular Bible reading and active participation in congregation meetings and in the field ministry will keep these precious truths alive in us.
When faced with decisions, big or small, call to mind those vital truths, and let them influence your thinking. Do not forget. Look to Jehovah for guidance. Instead of viewing matters simply from a fleshly standpoint or trusting the impulse of an imperfect heart, ask yourself, ‘What counsel or principles from God’s Word should have a bearing on my decision?’ (Prov. 3:5-7; 28:26) You cannot recall things that you have never read or heard. But as you grow in accurate knowledge and love for Jehovah, the reservoir of knowledge that God’s spirit can help you to remember will expand, and your growing love for Jehovah will motivate you to act in harmony with it.