Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trusting Enough To Forgive


A few years ago when I was serving in another calling in the church, I was asked how to forgive the unforgivable, by someone that was suffering greatly with this. I surely did feel the weight of that question and the responsibility of it as well. These are some of the things that I understood better as I pondered and prayed. I shared some of these thoughts with this person, my friend. Some I have learned since that time.

Anger and being hurt deeply are like being frozen. Not only does your heart grow cold but it can create a type of paralysis where you just feel stuck, without control in your own life and helpless. Just like this snow isn't going to melt over night neither is the pain. We have to act to move through it.

Forgiveness and reestablishing trust in a person that has hurt us deeply is a process. We forgive for many reasons: 1. It is a commandment. 2. It is the only thing we can do if we want to learn to love unconditionally. 3. It is the only way to remove the guile from our damaged heart. 4. How else can we find the peace we seek when we have no control over others, their agency or their actions?

Our making an attempt at forgiveness is the first step and demonstrates to the Lord, the other person and ourselves our willingness and desire to have things restored to the way they were again. It demonstrates that we want to carry on the process of loving someone that is not perfect.

We are seeking charity and that precious pure love of Christ that helps us overcome the damaged relationship through the actions of another. This demonstrates our acknowledgment that we are not perfect either and our desire and need to be forgiven by the Lord, others, and ourselves for all of our own transgressions. It literally opens the doors to our progression through the forgiveness we are seeking to accomplish.

One step at a time

If we want the restoration, forgiveness is not an option, it is a necessity. Even if at first we think we do not even want it, when the pain is fresh and stinging, we still need it. It requires great courage to go forward at that point but we must.

That does not mean that it is easy, or that it happens immediately, or that wishing will make it so. Forgiving is hard work. It requires us to put aside our pride. It requires us to pray sincerely and often and sometimes it requires pleading with the Lord for charity towards that person with all the earnestness of heart we can muster.

It requires that we go to the scriptures often. I feel that one of the things this accomplishes is that it demonstrates over and over and over again, in a thousand different scenarios, how keeping the commandments of God is the only way to find real happiness in this life. We begin to understand that the ill feelings we are harboring are not in keeping with the commandments of God.

Gradually we can apply this belief to ourselves and stop blaming the other person for our pain so much. We can take action as to whom we will become, not them. It transports us to a place of being proactive rather than reactionary. Our desire to begin the process of forgiving gives us a handle on that feeling of helplessness and of being a victim. We then feel we can use our own agency to move forward. We begin to realize this process has less to do with the offender and more to do with changing our own heart. This is freeing in and of itself.

If we do not have immediate trust in the offender or even worse if we feel we can't trust anyone now, it does not mean we cannot or have not forgiven them. Although it could indeed mean that, it may also mean that we are still working on the process of how the atonement actually heals. It takes lots of time and effort for the big things.

To move forward in our ability to trust we have to return to the first principle of the Gospel. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires us to think more deeply about the atonement and to increase our faith in its power to change us. Perhaps the other person will come along the same path also and maybe not. Our focus has to be on the Savior and on ourselves as we try to come to a point of forgiving. We do not focus on ourselves in a selfish way, but in a desire to make the changes that will bring peace to us through Him.

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We cannot trust again without effort on our part to want to move forward and to place our full trust in the Savior. 

To be restored both parties must come to this place in their spiritual journey separately. The beauty and the complexity in this lies in the fact that we can only change ourselves.  The offended person may come to the place of peace long before the offender realizes that their own ability to become trustworthy again depends on the atonement, as well. These changes in the individuals happen independent of each other. The irony is that both must travel the same path to achieve the change within themselves. That change is the restoration that only comes through Jesus Christ and His atonement.

His is the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved in this life and the next. In some instances it will happen for one and not the other. The one who makes the effort to truly repent can have perfect healing whether or not the other ever seeks to achieve it or not. Our comfort and peace depends on our faith in the Savior, but we often focus solely on the apologies, restitution, or repentance of the other. The very fact that it doesn't work that way, is evidence of His perfect love for us as individuals and the total equity in the Gospel Plan.

Ideally it would be great if both were working on repairing the relationship at the same time, with the same degree of effort, understanding, spirituality, desire, etc. Realistically this is often rare, or nearly impossible. The individuals may come to the realization of their own culpability and or responsibility in the situation at very different times and ways. But of course it does and can happen.

If the serious situation happens within a family, there is one thing that moves us toward that forgiving like no other.   It is having the same foundation or operating system to work within in the relationship. This is why we are encouraged to pray and study together, attend meetings together, go to the temple together, have Family Home Evening, to give service to others, etc. Everything we are asked to do within the Gospel of Jesus Christ creates unity. It helps us have a better understanding of the atonement and the central role of Jesus in our lives.

Forgiveness and trust come in no other way. The natural man is an enemy to God and that is where we harbor anger, resentment, thoughts of despair and retaliation, even hatred. Our personal relationship with the Savior is the only thing that can turn us around and help us reach our ultimate goals of perfect love, a desire to be righteous, and the ability to be resilient in a world that is often baffling, cruel, heartbreaking, and unfair. 

In our common foundation of Faith in Jesus Christ we can lay claim to both Hope in our future and Charity towards those who offend us. Our own personal restoration and happiness depend on all three.

The perfect relationship involves three; you, the other person and Jesus Christ. If one decides to end the relationship we always know it will not be the Savior. He will stay with us no matter what the other person decides. In real life the outcome is not always happy between the two people but it is always a happy ending if we stay close to the Lord. We need to wait on the Lord, and it takes time to forgive and be healed.

Forgiveness allows us the freedom to see beauty in our lives again.

The best news is that it is possible to forgive and to completely forget, if not the incident, at least the devastating pain of it, with the help of the Savior of all mankind. My question is always, who would not want this in their lives? The way is strait, the path narrow, but it can be done. As we hear His call to come unto Him, we will see the way.

The key is to want it with all of our heart, might, mind and strength and then to move forward in humility with complete faith in Him. And knowing that being encircled in that embrace of His perfect love we will always be safe. In that safe haven we will be free to forgive and trust and love as we desire and move on our lives. It is The Son of God that melts our freezing, cold and lonely heart with warmth and new life. It is a miracle and it is enough.


LA Adams said...

I really like how I can "see" your analogy. I've noticed many times those I try hardest to forgive and move on from don't even feel there is a problem. I've always found this to be a personal experience instead of a shared one. Thanks Bonnie, this is great.

Marie said...

Beautiful thoughts on forgiveness here Bonnie. We must find it in our hearts to forgive. To not do so only poisons our own hearts. xxoo

{Bellamere Cottage} said...

My sweeeet Bon...

What an awesome post and dang it all.......what I really needed to read today. God's like that, isn't He? You're just precious dear girl.........

Hope all is well with you and yours. Busy, just really, super busy around here.

Lovies to you!


Sister Susie said...

"And the greatest of these is love." I think working with forgiveness of others and ourselves is what strengthens us to carry on with all of the others tasks the LORD has for us whilr we mature in His Knowledge.

Love to you and yours,

Deila said...

I enjoyed your advice, and can identify with so much of it. I guess we all have experiences that are trying and hard to recover from. I find that I have forgotten the pain, not always the memory. Sometimes, I have just handed the whole mess over to God, and then I am over it. It is amazing how that works.