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.
Taken by Jim on a snow trek with the men
in the family a few years ago.
in the family a few years ago.
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 forces us to look and accept in humility our own errors and mistakes that have made a contribution to the pain in the relationship. It literally opens the doors to our progression through the forgiveness we are seeking to accomplish for all involved. Sometimes forgiving ourselves is the most difficult of all.
FlickrIf 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.
One step at a time...
One step at a time...
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. We need the Lord to succor us then, perhaps more than ever. We need that assurance that in our sorrows he still loves us with a perfect love. We need to know that his love is not based on what people do. Unconditional love from him comes to all involved and is ever present.
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. Our own thinking is so relevant to the way we will be comforted. Continuing to focus on the pain is never helpful. This is freeing in and of itself. When we find that higher road, the compassion for the offender and the beginning of understanding another's motives and actions begin to be felt. Our perception and elevated thinking literally released the venom from our hearts. It is easy? Rarely. It is possible, yes with the power of Christ's atonement.
If we do not have immediate trust in the person whom we feel has wronged us, 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.
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. We can have a perfect peace with or without the slightest effort on the part of the person that has hurt us. Isn't that a life saving principle from our perfect God? It truly is.
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. Faith, hope and charity.
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.
Thoughts for Today~How The Lord Forgives Us
I wrote this post above in 2007 and have updated it several times including today. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to reread and relearn these principles. Today in Sunday School we talked about the atonement of Jesus Christ. We have the most wonderful class and teacher who asked us profound questions that help us think through how we really learn which is through the Holy Ghost.
I learned some new things about the lingering effects of natural consequences of our actions and how we should not think that the Lord has not forgiven us if we have truly repented. During that time when the law of the natural consequences of our mistakes still troubles us...with his help and comforting love we can heal. It occurred to me as I pondered this that perhaps these two things (forgiveness and healing) rarely happen simultaneously.
I personally believe he forgives us very quickly when we ask him to with a sincerely repentant heart. That does not mean we still do not have things to do to feel his peace. If we miss the feeling of the outpouring of the constant and unconditional love he has for us after we have recognized we have made a big mistake, we often cannot feel worthy of forgiveness. We have to believe in his unchanging love. He does not stop loving us because we make a mistake. This is contrary to the ways of the world. We can have a hard time believing it because worldly experiences speak differently to us.
I think a lot of people think that if they are still hurting after repenting then somehow it didn't work and that they are not forgiven. I had the impression today that the much bigger part of the process may be the succoring Jesus does for us during the healing process. I keep thinking of the prodigal son and how his father ran to succor him, embrace him and welcome him home. That embrace was the father's perfect love for his son, his gift of grace.
He didn't just stop there, the father continued to show him love and favor over time until the son felt completely happy and whole and truly forgiven. The father showed an increase of love until the son felt peace. When the son realized his father truly remembered it no more the son was free to let the pain of his own wrong-doing go.
Well, these are just my thoughts that came to me in class and afterwards today. It lifted my spirits to personalize this and feel comforted by the mistakes in my life that he has and continues to forgive. Our sins and mistakes are truly heavy burdens and it is a wonderful blessing to be able to cast them at his feet and with his help move on. There is truly no greater love than this. We should find constant comfort in it.