Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Memory

"I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy word." (Psalm 119:16)

If you're anything like me, Scripture memorization is not something that comes easily on most days. Aside from simply making time to spend in God's Word amidst my otherwise busy schedule, the process of learning a new verse word-for-word, along with the reference, is something that's inherently difficult. It demands intense concentration and unwavering discipline, both of which go against the grain of our human nature that is prone to laziness and impatience. Even beyond the difficulty of learning a new passage of Scripture for the first time, ensuring those verses are permanently stored in one's long-term memory calls for regular review that requires an equal level of commitment.

The obvious difference between long-term memory and short-term memory is in how long your brain retains a piece of information. Think of your long-term memory as the hard drive on your computer: it's what you use to save vacation photos, music and other important documents you intend to keep for a very long time. On the other hand, your computer's memory (or RAM) automatically saves just enough information to accomplish the task at hand, operating in much the same way as your short-term memory. You may "memorize" a small shopping list before a trip to the grocery store, but that information will be discarded once it's no longer needed. Stored in your long-term memory is more vital data such as the names of people you know, important life events, and even the beliefs and opinions that characterize who you are. Although short-term memory is a valuable tool used for many purposes, successful Scripture memorization calls for the utilization of our long term memory.

So how can we make sure the Scripture we memorize is stored in our long-term memory?

First of all, resist the temptation to obsess over the number of verses you learn. After all, memorizing well is far more important than memorizing quickly.

Secondly, commit to regular and systematic review of the verses you've already learned. If you consider that just 15 minutes per day spent memorizing adds up to more than 90 hours every year, I'm sure you'll agree that failing to maintain those verses in memory would be a tragedy.

What about you? Do you consciously work to ensure your memory verses make the transition from short- to long-term memory, or do you routinely review them in a way that seems to accomplish this across the board? Generally speaking, would you say this process takes a few days, a few weeks, or longer?



  • Good thoughts here Dakota. I find that some verses in long-term memory are not always accessible, but that a little review can sharpen them up. I usually review things memorized long ago when I'm going to have an occasion to recite them.

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