Forgiving is not forgetting the act, for that is usually impossible; nor is it pardoning or condoning or justifying. It is forgiving. Nothing more, nothing less.
Today my post is an article written by my husband Dave and published in Desert Saints, a Las Vegas magazine, 12 years ago. I know it is long but I believe it contains insight and help that cannot be measured in time. I ask you to trust me on this.
The Old Testament refers to forgiveness numerous times, showing the Lord forgiving His children. During that time period, man's relationship to man was one of retribution and vindication.
With the advent of the Savior on earth, one of those relationships changed. No longer are we justified in striking back at those who have offended or harmed us. The imperative from the Lord is to love one another. And our obligation is to forgive one another.
We are told we are to seek forgiveness for our "debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). It is interesting to note that the only subject in the Lord's Prayer which Christ chose to elaborate on was that of forgiveness. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15).
We might be offended or injured in a myriad of ways, physically, emotionally or spiritually. But our duty is always the same, to forgive.
The question is --- How?
The answer starts to form as we examine our frame of mind.
Are we holding a grudge, grievance, or resentment?
Is the offense real or imagined?
Was it personal or general?
Was it purposeful or unintentional? (In many cases the offending party is unaware they have given offense.)
Could it be possible we have done something deserving of criticism? Or perhaps, we have misconstrued or misunderstood someone's words or actions?
Whatever the case, no matter whose fault, the Lord tells us we must not hold onto these feelings. Hanging on causes us to blame others for the way we feel and begins to drag us down and embitter us.
We must "get over it."
While it is usually appropriate to tell our version of the story to a select few, when we repeat it endlessly, we paint ourselves as the victim and begin to justify our feelings. It becomes a search for sympathy, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Forgiving is not forgetting the act, for that is usually impossible; nor is it pardoning or condoning or justifying. It is forgiving. Nothing more, nothing less. Forgiving may not always bring closure but we still need to get over it and move on with life.
Again the question --- How do we do that?
We cannot take personally the act or word that has offended us. There is a difference between having something "done to you," which we take as a personal affront, and done "about you," which is an act performed or words spoken because of something we may have said or done. An example might be what we do when our children misbehave. We may tell our children we do not like what they have done; we must never tell them we don't like them. This is the mind set we need to have to forgive someone.
We must hold ourselves responsible for how we feel today, living in the here and now.
We must get rid of "old news." No one wants to hear it. We can do that by thinking of the many good things in our lives. As the old song says, we can "accentuate the positive."
We must realize that no one makes us feel a certain way.
We are the only ones who control the way we feel, so we can only blame ourselves for negative feelings.
We must create a positive "rewrite:" how we can overcome the harm that was done to us. Many of us can tell of situations where we harbored resentment that festered in us like an infection. We must tell "the rest of the story" --- the forgiving part that allows us to move on without the heavy burden of bitterness. Thus we make "building blocks" from the situation.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with who is right or who is wrong. I has everything to do with releasing ill feelings.
It has to do with saying, "I am sorry for my anger. Forgive me." We are commanded to forgive, whether or not we have been asked for forgiveness by the offender. Also, we are commanded to seek forgiveness for offenses we have committed, and the bad feelings we have harbored.
So many of us cling to an offense as if it were a valued friend. We must realize that in fact, it is a subtle enemy that can destroy us spiritually. Like an addiction, we must ultimately determine that this cancer be removed. Then we must turn to the ultimate physician for our cure.
Not surprisingly then, the formula is a familiar one.
By turning to the Lord in prayer, we are calling on the power that can remove all ills. If we remember that our Savior has experienced every pain and hurt and anxiety, as well as the sins of all mankind, we know He will help us when we ask for His help.
We must pray for the strength to forgive, even though it is difficult.
Even as He was being crucified, Christ asked his Father for forgiveness for His tormentors. By comparison, what a little thing we care called on to do when we are commanded to forgive.
The Lord's instruction to us is clear. "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men" (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).
Let's not try to fix the blame, let's fix the relationship.
(Dave took some of the material for this article from the book Forgive for Good, by Fredric Luskin)