Yesterday, I left church with an abundance of the Spirit in my heart. In our first meeting of the day, Sacrament Meeting, a brother in our congregation gave a talk about forgiveness. It was such a powerful message and has helped me tremendously.
This brother talked about how Jesus Christ gave the commandment for us to forgive others:
Luke 6:27-28 – But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Jesus does not say in any of these scriptures that we only need to forgive minor offenses and not forgive the major. We must forgive everyone for anything that they do to us.
This isn’t easy. Often when someone does something to hurt us, we talk badly about that person to our family and friends. We may hold a grudge while we wait for that person to apologize to us. Sometimes we even wish ill-will on those who have hurt us, and maybe even want to get even.
These are natural human reactions, aren’t they? I am sure all of us have had some of these reactions when we have been wronged.
Something I have learned from the Book of Mormon, however, is that what is natural is not what is of God:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 3:7).
If you think about it, the natural reactions and actions I mentioned above don’t really help us at all. Do any of us want to be angry, bitter people? Does it heal our hurt to hold a grudge or take revenge? What impression do I give of myself when I talk badly about someone or wish them pain and sadness? No, the natural way is not the right way.
So, what can we do to make ourselves feel better when we are wronged?
The prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, said:
“The spirit must be freed from tethers so strong and feelings never put to rest, so that the lift of life may give buoyancy to the soul. In many families, there are hurt feelings and a reluctance to forgive. It doesn’t really matter what the issue was. It cannot and should not be left to injure. Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals.”
I found this quote today and I love it. What he said can apply to anyone, not just families. Only forgiveness heals. But how can we possibly forgive someone who did something so bad to us? We didn’t deserve to be treated this way. This person maybe hasn’t even apologized.
Well, I think in order to forgive someone, you have to open your heart. Give the benefit of the doubt because do you really know what is in someone’s heart? Do you know what that person has previously gone through? Is that person struggling right now? Does that person even know (s)he hurt you?
In his talk, the brother talked about some examples of very heinous wrongs done to others, such as the murder of a child or other family member. In these cases it would be much harder to forgive, but I know all things are possible with the Lord’s help, for He descended below them all. He has felt all of our pains and sorrows, and He can help heal us from our suffering.
Another realization that can help us forgive others would be recognizing we all have divine potential. We are all children of God. He loves all of us. He wants us all to return to Him, and has given us the ability to repent and to change. By pleading to our Heavenly Father in prayer and by studying our scriptures, we can come to this understanding.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Our Heavenly Father’s and Savior’s love for us is pure and unconditional. In the scriptures, this love is called charity. It is something all of us must develop in order to truly be like Christ.
Marvin J Ashton, a former apostle in the LDS church, said:
greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or
categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the
doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses,
and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or
resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something
the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s
weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is
expecting the best of each other” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 24; or
Ensign, May 1992, 18–19).
I know I want to follow Christ and keep His commandments. Thus, I must develop this charity in myself. Elder Ashton further explained that “real
charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and
make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in
your heart, you are never the same again. It makes the thought of [putting
others down] repulsive.”
I have grown up learning all of these beautiful truths. I have always known the importance of forgiveness. Why, then, did this talk about forgiveness touch me so?
It is because as he spoke, the image of a person, the only person who I have never been able to forgive, flooded to my mind. I will not mention what she did, but even nine years later, I still had resentful feelings towards her. She has probably forgotten all about me, and probably never thinks about what she did. However, for years the wrongs she did to me always stuck with me. I knew I was supposed to forgive her, but it just wasn’t a desire I had. I didn’t think she deserved forgiveness.
After hearing this talk, however, I finally had a desire to forgive her. Something I have always known took its place in my heart. And just like that, I was able to forgive her. I thank my Heavenly Father for touching my heart while listening to this talk on forgiveness. I pray that I will more fully have charity in my heart for all those I will know in my life.