This week I was watching the Hallmark Channel series The Good Witch and I heard this quote, “Hate traps you in the past.” This quote led me to ponder forgiveness for several days.
I think that forgiveness is often a misunderstood principle. This is usually the case when we are in need of forgiving an other. Forgiving an other is hard when we are racked with hurt feelings over the actions of an other. It is difficult to forgive when our minds and hearts are clouded with unsettled feelings of hurt and anger. It is difficult to take a step back and remember just what forgiveness is and is not on our part.
I can tell you that I believe that forgiveness is not validating the wrong that we experienced. It is not giving “permission” to an individual to treat us poorly or that we some how approve of their wrong doing or offensive behavior. It does not absolve the person from their own accountability. Forgiving someone does not mean you need to welcome a dangerous, unrepentant person into your personal space.
Forgiving others means that with our Heavenly Father’s help and the help of Jesus Christ, we can cleanse our hearts of anger or hatred toward an offender. With their help we can cease to dwell on the offense or to relive the experience. With their help we can experience peace. It is not always easy, but it is always possible. Forgiveness is for me.
Holding onto poisonous anger and hurt destroys souls. Holding onto anger, hate, and vengeance forces us to forfeit the gift of the Holy Ghost. It actually invited the spirit of contention and the spirit of the adversary into our lives, limiting and even halting our progress forward due to the lack of a forgiving heart.
As I work to separate the oppressor’s crime from my own crime of holding on to anger, I begin to feel the Lord walking beside me as He promised. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Letting go of anger invites the Holy Ghost into our lives as I follow the example of the Savior and truly forgive.
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Forgiveness… allows the love of God to purge your heart and mind of the poison of hate. I cleanses your consciousness of the desire for revenge. It makes place for the purifying, healing, restoring love of the Lord.
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (3 Nephi 12″44).
Holding on to pain, hurt, disappointment, bitterness, and hatred is harmful. It is destructive. The “self-pity party” can even transform a victim into an offender as well. It isn’t worth the effort.
Let God be the judge – He is better at it.
Be forgiving of others – remembering that you too are in need of forgiveness.
Break free of the past. Trust the Lord. Step back. Let Him do His job. Allow Him to smoother you in the healing balm of the Atonement. Let Him carry the burden He has offered to carry rather then tackling Him to the ground to take it back for yourself.
He will heal. He will lift. He will bring peace. His strength will become your strength. In fact, as He heals, you will find that leaning on the arm of the Lord makes you stronger than you ever thought was possible.