as the first sunday of the month in relief society brings a presidency selected lesson, i got to pick the topic for todays. i kept feeling a pull towards speaking about forgiveness, so i chose my topic as: to truly forgive. i think (?) it went well. it certainly did me well being reminded of the importance of forgiveness and the peace and freedom it brings to our lives. ♥
To truly forgive
To err is human, to forgive is divine
When I was working in the funeral home many years ago, before Madeline was even born, I arrived one day to make arrangements with a family who were as calm as could be. There was complete peace within their home. I learned within the arrangements that their elderly father had stepped off the kerb earlier that morning and been struck by a passing car, killing him almost instantly. I then learned that this family had asked the policeman who attended their home to deliver this terrible news, if they would be able to visit with the man who had been driving the car. Not out of malice or anger, but instead to let him know that they did not blame him for their loss. To let him know he was forgiven. This beautiful family put their pain aside to ensure he would not live in guilt or suffering as he relived the events of that day throughout his life. This, my dear Sisters, I feel is what our saviour spoke of when he told us that we needed to truly forgive.
There is the phrase forgive and forget. I personally do not feel that we need to forget to be able to forgive. We have memories for our experience. We learn from experience and our memories of these incidents allow us to not make the same mistake again.
“He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). The Lord has offered a marvellous promise here in the scriptures. I have also read in a church book just recently…. that the neither the Lord nor we will forget our wrongdoings. There is a common misconception that once we have truly repented that we will no longer remember a sin. This isn't the case. It simply means that those sins have been paid for and at the day of judgement the lord will not bring them up. They will be as though they never happened even though our memories may remain, as again these things are for our experience.
“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:9–10).
There are so many in our day who are unwilling to forgive and forget. Children cry and wives weep because fathers and husbands continue to bring up little shortcomings that are really of no importance. And there also are many women who would make a mountain out of every little offending molehill of word or deed. We must forgive our family. Even Nephi said of his brothers that did so many wrongs to him time and time again “I did frankly forgive them.” I always admired him for that!
In a talk from 2005, simply entitled “forgiveness”, President Gordon B Hinckley recounted a powerful story of forgiveness. A time back, the Deseret Morning News, reporter Jay Evensen wrote the following. “How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 10 kg frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal—and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage? And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime. The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said. Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault. Had he been convicted of first-degree assault—the charge most fitting for the crime—he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects. But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part. According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’ Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears” Who can feel anything but admiration for this woman who forgave the young man who might have taken her life?
I know this is a delicate and sensitive thing of which we speak. There are hardened criminals who may have to be locked up. Of course, society needs to be protected from hardened criminals, because mercy cannot rob justice. There are unspeakable crimes, such as deliberate murder and rape, that justify harsh penalties. But there are some who could be saved from long years in prison because of an unthoughtful, foolish act. Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way.
The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The magnitude of that Atonement is beyond our ability to completely understand. I know only that it happened, and that it was for me and for you. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can comprehend it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind.
It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life.
May God help us to be a little kinder, showing forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, more willing to walk the second mile, to reach down and lift up those who may have sinned but have brought forth the fruits of repentance, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more.
Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as it applies to human relationships:
“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harbouring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”
Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.
Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic. The hardest thing we will ever do, is to forgive someone who is not sorry, and accept an apology you did not get. But doing so will change our lives and heal us of unnecessary pain.
All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord. But because it happens, it must be endured. President Howard W. Hunter said that “God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.”
President Brigham Young offered this profound insight that at least some of our suffering has a purpose when he said: “Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. … Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”
If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes “that forgiveness … is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.”
In our day the Lord has admonished us, “Ye ought to forgive one another,” and then makes it requisite when He says, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
What can we all learn from such experiences as these? We need to recognize and acknowledge angry feelings. It will take humility to do this, but if we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us. The Lord requires us “to forgive all men” for our own good because “hatred retards spiritual growth.” Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts.
“Forgiveness is a source of power. But it does not relieve us of consequences.” When tragedy strikes, we should not respond by seeking personal revenge but rather let justice take its course and then let go. It is not easy to let go and empty our hearts of festering resentment. The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. For all of us who forgive “those who trespass against us,” even those who have committed serious crimes, the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort. Christ himself even on the cross begged for the forgiveness of those who had put him to death. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"
This is not to say that forgiveness is easy. When someone has hurt us or those we care about, that pain can almost be overwhelming. It can feel as if the pain or the injustice is the most important thing in the world and that we have no choice but to seek vengeance. But Christ, the Prince of Peace, teaches us a better way. It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts. We must forgive as many as 70 times 7. ♥
(lots of my lesson sourced from here and here)
(lots of my lesson sourced from here and here)