The Sermon on the Mount taught me just how precarious my spiritual situation was. I reasoned that the crimes against me had been unusual and cruel. I longed to let go of the hatred I carried like a millstone in my heart. The example of the Savior as He hung on the cross kept coming to mind. If I was to have any chance at a normal life, forgiveness must come. I imagined that forgiveness could happen in one easy step. But for me, it was to be a long journey. When I married and gave birth to my own children, I realized my mother had not been an innocent bystander, as I had so long thought.
She had not protected me. So now I had another parent to forgive. Instead of getting better, my need to forgive was growing deeper, and I did not know what to do or where to turn. My husband and friends were sympathetic listeners and encouraged me in the healing process, but I needed something more. I was the only one among my family who did, but I finally I felt completely at home.
I read the Book of Mormon and learned many long-awaited truths. Forgiveness was a prevalent theme in this latter-day scripture. Mosiah taught me that in not forgiving my parents, I was bringing condemnation upon myself. I continued to pray that I might forgive.
Soon after joining the Church I became keenly interested in genealogy. Family history started me down the path to genuine forgiveness. My maternal grandmother and great-uncle helped me unearth information about past generations. And what I found amazed me. I learned that when my father was just a child, his father had robbed a bank. My grandmother found herself alone raising a young son.
She turned to sinful behavior to support the two of them while her husband was in prison for 12 years. I finally felt the stirring of sweet forgiveness for the young boy who inherited such a disturbing lineage. I began to see myself in a new light. Error was a long chain, reaching back for generations. Our natural response is anger. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as it applies to human relationships:.
"Forgiveness - Letting Go of the Hurt" Colossians
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. Forgiveness comes more readily when, like the Amish, we have faith in God and trust in His word. It also enables people to look beyond themselves. More importantly, it enables them to forgive. 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.
The Divine Gift of Repentance
President Howard W. 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. Here in Salt Lake City in , Bishop Steven Christensen, through no fault of his own, was cruelly and senselessly killed by a bomb intended to take his life. He was the son of Mac and Joan Christensen, the husband of Terri, and the father of four children. After this terrible deed, the news media followed members of the Christensen family around relentlessly.
It be a hurt that came from some violent or reckless act.
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It may have been something that somebody should have done but didn't. It may be something that took place over many years. It may be something that happened in a moment. Even as I speak these words there may be a situation or person that immediately pops into your mind and begins to make your stomach churn. In fact, the danger I face here is that this issue will remind you of a pain that distracts you from the clear teaching of the Bible.
The command to forgive is most difficult because sometimes we don't want to forgive. We want to strike back. We want justice.
We want the other person to know the pain they inflicted. And if we can't have justice we vow that we will never have a relationship with that person again. We avoid them and ignore them. It is not surprising then that when we talk about forgiveness we are more interested in finding loopholes than we are in obeying. This morning I quote lots of different people.
The reason I do so is simple: I am still learning about forgiveness. So, today I enlist the help of others. Why does God make such an issue of forgiveness? I think we can answer that question several different ways. First, forgiveness reflects God's character. When we forgive we reflect the Father's love. The standard is this: forgive AS He has forgiven you. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to extend to others what God has extended to us. Do you remember where you were when He found you? Can you recall the countless times you ignored God, spurned Him, did what you knew was wrong?
Even then the Lord reached out to You and offered His forgiveness. And when you received His love He promised He would "remember the past no longer".
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You have been forgiven. When we forgive others we show that His Spirit is at work within us. When we forgive we demonstrate that we have not forgotten where He found us. But you say , "If we forgive aren't we just letting someone get away with a wrong? Shouldn't we make people aware of the wrong they have done? Thomas Watson answered this objection quite effectively,. One of the best ways of showing someone the wrong they have done is to contrast their actions with grace. Second, forgiveness releases us. The alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and resentment.
Dale Carnegie tells about a visit to Yellowstone Park where he saw a grizzly bear. The huge animal was in the center of a clearing, feeding on some discarded camp food. For several minutes he feasted alone; no other creature dared draw near. After a few moments a skunk walked through the meadow toward the food and took his place next to the grizzly. The bear didn't object and Carnegie knew why. People who refuse to forgive, hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around.
They can't sleep. Ulcers line their stomach.