After “Wounded” wrote in last week, asking how to forgive someone who had caused great harm in her life, Meridian readers have risen up to offer counsel.  Much of that counsel is based on the scriptures or the words of the prophets; other advice comes from hard-won experience.

There was a time when I thought I had forgiven someone who hurt me.  But what I had really done is just swept it under the rug and lived for years in denial.  The truth was, I didn’t know how to forgive.  I wanted to — I just didn’t know how.  Gratefully I learned about the “Pyramid Model of Forgiveness” that was developed by Everett Worthington, a psychologist.  He gives 5 steps and uses the acronym “R.E.A.CH”.

R — Recall the hurt.  Write it out in detail.  Share it with a trusted friend or therapist.
E — Empathize with the person who hurt you.  This isn’t justifying it, but trying to understand why he would do the thing(s) he did.
A — Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness:  You forgive the person, not because he deserves it, but because you do.  It’s a gift.  You do not need to tell the person you forgive him.  This can be between you and God.  You can tell the offender if it’s appropriate.
C — Commit: Commit to forgive.  Write it down.
H — Hold on to forgiveness.  This means reminding yourself when the hurt comes up (and it will) that you have already forgiven and you can move on.

You may need to work through these steps more than once, and that is okay.  Forgiveness isn’t an event.  It’s a process.  It’s also important to remember that forgiveness isn’t equal to trust.  Trust may need to be rebuilt over time, or it may not be wise to trust that person again if he has not shown he is worthy of your trust.  Forgiveness does not mean you put yourself in harm’s way, emotionally or physically.  But forgiveness does mean letting go of the hurt, anger, and bitterness.

DeAnn Hansen

What a great acronym, DeAnn!  That’s a real help, and I can attest that it’s more than empty words.  I once heard a sacrament meeting talk where the speaker said we needed to forgive our parents.  My father and I had endured a nasty relationship, and he wasn’t the only one at fault.  After I heard that talk I had a talk with him and forgave him.  It was a virtual talk because he had been dead for more than 15 years, but as soon as I told him I forgave him — and also asked forgiveness for the things I had done wrong — a chain fell away from me and I realized for the first time in my life I had the potential of being really happy.  Ever since then, I am a huge advocate of forgiveness.  Even if you don’t want to forgive someone for the offender’s sake, do it for yourself.

More than twenty years ago, something happened within my marriage that caused me so much pain. I had already forgiven my LDS husband (to whom I had been sealed in the temple) for more than one indiscretion, but the shock of what I had just learned was nearly enough to kill me.
Through the tender mercies of the Lord, though, I learned some critical information which helped me immediately:

1) The gift of the Holy Ghost is a reality that can be used in times of pain and sorrow.  Living one’s life by following the Savior’s example allows us to draw upon the wellspring of peace and comfort through times (and we all have them) of greatest adversity.   

When my husband confessed his greatest sin, I was stunned —- spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  He walked out of the room as I sank onto the couch.  But the Holy Ghost whispered to me the words that made all the difference in my approach to a very dire problem: “You must forgive him.  You must forgive him now because if you don’t, you will become bitter and it will not be good for your family.”

Somehow (and I believe this is how possessing the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us weather those terrible storms in life), I was able to heed the admonition, and instantly rose to my feet, sought out my husband and frankly forgave him.  As I did so, my pain diminished greatly.

  Yes, he would have to endure the consequences of his actions, but it was not up to me to inflict the punishment.  I was freed from that terrible load.  

2)  We cannot judge what goes on in any other person’s mind.  We are not asked to punish, but to forgive.

My dear friends, Bonnie and Bruce Harris, just lost their wonderful son, Brian, to a suspected burglar.  You probably read about it in the news last week.  Although everyone wonders “WHY?”, no one can read the mind of the perpetrator.  Was he in his right mind?  Had he suffered a great trauma, himself?  Was there the slight chance that an accident had occurred?

How can one person take the life of another?  The Savior told us, “My grace is sufficient for     all,” and, “Be not weary in well-doing.”  Somehow, we must be willing to forgive, to heal, to look at the greater picture, even in our grief and sorrow.  
3)  There is a way to learn to trust again those who have intentionally or unintentionally wronged us.  It requires us to walk through the ‘mists of darkness’ until we can once again, walk in the light.
If we immerse ourselves in the scriptures, if we with real intent plead with the Lord through prayer, if we seek healing through priesthood blessings when appropriate, and if we apply the eternal principle of forgiveness we will gain the strength needed to find both peace and trust.  Although this requires faith and patience, none of us are perfect, and developing these virtues will allow those who have been hurt to heal and learn to trust again.
4) Even when we go the extra mile to forgive and trust again, there are no guarantees of a painless life.  We must look to the Savior and do the very best we can to become the person He would want us to be.  Each person is unique and precious.  We must be willing to go forward in all circumstances, seeking the will of the Lord.

My first husband, the husband of my youth, my dearly beloved, eventually died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, which brought about a whole new set of circumstances.  Could I ever learn to trust any man again?  Could I have done something to stop him?  What would this mean for my children?  Would life ever become normal to us as a family?  

This is where the adage “Time heals all wounds” comes into play. Yes, the family suffered and each of us has gone through our own Gethsemane.  Sunday church attendance, being together as often as possible during Sunday dinners and Family Home Evening, even family reunions have aided in maintaining the balance in our lives that once was fragile. But we are doing better!  We attend the temple.  I have remarried.  My children have grown up in the world, served missions, married in the temple, and finished their schooling.  Looking back, I can see that being able to forgive immediately has been the presiding principle of faith that helped me guide my family through those difficult times.


What a great letter, Comforted.  It’s great to learn that even after being at the bottom of an emotional abyss, forgiveness helps you climb up and find a renewed joy in life.  Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Forgiveness is relatively easy when it’s just something minor, but the big things take Heavenly Father’s help. This was my experience.

When my daughter was eight years old, I was attending an evening college class. She was in the care of a babysitter but this could have happened when I was home, too, so I don’t blame the babysitter.

Across the street from us lived a man with two girls near my daughter’s age. She was visiting the home with a friend when the man touched her inappropriately and asked her to keep it a secret. She didn’t keep it a secret because she had learned at school that very day that when adults ask you to keep something secret, you should tell the nearest trusted adult.

When I got home and was told about it, I called the police. The man got fined $1,000, sentenced to jail for one year, and the jail time was suspended if he received counseling.

The repercussions on my daughter were terrible.  The man had a good reputation in the neighborhood, and some kids beat up my daughter because they thought she lied.

I had to change schools for her. She received counseling, but it was so hard on my daughter to talk about the incident the counseling was almost ineffective.

My daughter had been very outgoing, but after that she closed up and was fearful. It made my heart ache, and I was so angry at the perpetrator. It was all I could think about. Every time I opened my front door, I could see his house. I grieved so much about the situation and absolutely hated the perpetrator.

About five months after this incident occurred, I looked down at my hands. They were turning blue, and I was shaking. I thought I could not live like this any longer. I got down on my knees to pray and told Heavenly Father all of the angry feelings I had in my heart. I could not forgive through myself, but Heavenly Father took all my anger away.

When I got up off my knees, I felt no more bitterness. But it took prayer and a miracle from Heavenly Father to feel this peace and forgiveness for the perpetrator. My daughter is now an adult and, of course, she has scars. But now she is a successful wife and mother, and I am very proud of her. I am grateful for prayer and Heavenly Father who helps us forgive when we cannot do it by ourselves.

A Mother

That’s a powerful story, Mother!  As hard as it is for us to forgive transgressions against ourselves, I can only imagine how much harder it would be for a parent to forgive someone who transgressed against that person’s child.  If you can forgive under those situations, it must be possible for anyone to forgive — not alone, but with the help of the Lord.  Luke 18:27 quotes the Savior as saying, “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.”   Forgiving the man who so grievously injured your daughter is surely one of those things.

The Savior has taken upon himself the sins of those persons against whom you have cause to anger, just as He is an advocate pleading your cause at the throne of the Father (D&C 45:3).  He stands before you asking your forgiveness of one who has offended you, and offers his sacrifice to satisfy your sense of justice.  His atonement is surely adequate. As Jesus offers himself in the place and stead of one who offended us and asks forgiveness, our bitterness and failure to forgive others amounts to a failure to forgive One who has done nothing of Himself to require forgiveness, but who has taken upon Himself the other’s sins.  Since we lack the capacity of our Ultimate Judge to see the whole picture, we must leave ultimate judgment to Him and envision the goodness of grace of the Savior as being enough to heal our still broken hearts.

Robert Greer

That’s so true, Robert.  I make so many mistakes every day that I can’t afford to withhold forgiveness from others.  In fact, I hope the Lord judges them liberally because I want the same liberal judgment for my own transgressions.

It sounds as though the writer is trying to forgive all by herself. I don’t think that’s possible. One needs to ask for the Savior’s help in forgiving.  At first just ask to feel the same thing the Savior is feeling toward the offender. Eventually one will be able to ask to have those same feelings personally.
Two things to remember: 

• This takes time. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t forgive immediately.
• Also, one doesn’t need to put oneself back into a relationship where the hurt can be repeated. Forgiveness doesn’t equate trust. Trust must be built over time and may not ever reach the level it once was.

Colorado Reader

Thanks for pointing out, Colorado, that forgiveness doesn’t equal trust.  You can forgive a snake for biting you, but if you put your hand back in the cage, it’s your fault if you get bitten again.

A wound to the heart, as you have described, is a mortal wound and (barring a miracle) cannot ever be healed in mortality — only in the resurrection. As long as you live there will always be a scar.

The trick whereby you can gain peace, is to allow the scar to form.

You cannot afford to reopen the wound and hope that somehow it will heal.  It has to be allowed to scar over.

Peace comes from doing what “Wiser Now” suggested. Leave the wound bandaged, and start making new, positive memories.

I have found the following scripture to be very helpful to me:  “For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil” (Alma 5:40).  The temptation to reopen the wound by thinking about it and remembering how much it hurt is evil and, therefore, from the devil.

Remember, the devil is a liar and the father of all lies, so there will likely be a lie involved in that temptation to relive the pain. You cannot and should not forget it, but you can do as President Packer so wisely counseled and change the subject your thoughts are thinking and think about something more positive and happy.

A wise Catholic monk (I don’t remember his name) said that it is impossible to be grateful and miserable at the same time. I have found this to be true in my life. So find something you are grateful for to think about, instead, when you find yourself tempted to reopen the wound. Let it scar. And look forward with an eye of faith to the resurrection when it will be totally and completely healed by the power of Jesus’ Atonement.

Been There, Done That

Thanks for a great quote, Been There.  People who are in the dregs of misery may think that’s a Pollyannaish idea, but there’s a whole lot of sense in it.  

First we have a great quote.  Now, for the poetry fans among you, here is a poem on forgiveness from one of our readers:

By Lin Floyd
I gave the gift of forgiveness
to you, not because I wanted to
but to open new paths
for my own growth.
You wandered, were lost
following worldly lusts
while I remained alone
trapped by destroyed dreams.
Then new understanding came
to guide me in wisdom’s way
a gift given — forgiving you,
freed me forever.

You made an important point, Lin, when you wrote that the person who benefits most from forgiveness is the one who does the forgiving.  Thanks for saying it so eloquently.

When you realise that you have sins that keep you away from God, and you are truly grateful for the Lord giving you the chance to repent, you will not begrudge that chance to someone else. Sometimes praying for the desire and capacity to forgive can help begin the long process ahead of you.

That’s another good point, Vim — forgiving others helps us on the path toward being forgiven ourselves.  We may be faultless in the situation for which we offer forgiveness, but there are surely other areas where we are the transgressor, and where we will need the same mercy shown to us that we show to others.

There is the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.”  I think it is true if you add to it, “if you turn to the Savior, who will lead you through the healing process.”  In my life, recovering from a deep hurt has taken prayer, experience and deeper gospel understanding.  

I started out praying to forgive, and I became very frustrated, because my hurt and anger didn’t diminish except when I was right on my knees praying.  So I changed my prayers to, “What do I need to do?”  I knew that prayer had been heard, and I felt that Heavenly Father would provide me with the experiences that would lead to insights that would make it easier to forgive.  First, I found myself yearning for the association of good people, and as I developed deep, lasting relationships with a handful of other people and experienced their love, it helped me recognize the Lord’s love for me.  The former betrayal, in other words, hadn’t happened because of something wrong within me.  
Second, church service also put me in a position to see how others were struggling. I saw brothers and sisters I loved sin or suffer due to the sin of others.    Since I loved these brothers and sisters, I wanted to understand what led them to do what they did, and I concluded that sin comes from unfulfilled needs.

But as a convert, I wasn’t sure my conclusion was in harmony with gospel teachings.  

About that time President Spencer W. Kimball wrote an article published in the Ensign, in which he stated, “Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings.” [Spencer W. Kimball, “Jesus: The Perfect Leader” ]  
Third, in an institute class I learned that the basic Hebrew word for atonement means “to cover.” and that it was customary, when someone sought refuge, to have his host place the hem of his robe over the seeker’s shoulder to declare he was under his protection.  I loved this image, and realized that, if I wanted to have the Lord embrace me with His robe, then I needed to let others also have their sins covered through His embrace.  I found it interesting when reading The Book of Mormon at a later date that Nephi, when he was angry with his brothers for trying to murder him, prayed, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!”
The Savior is the great physician of body and mind, but it takes time and patience for wounds to heal.  Speaking of patience, I would recommend President Uchtdorf’s talk  from last conference on that subject.  In part he said, “There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can — working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!”  May you endure until your wounds heal.
Karen — Still Working on Being Christlike

Thanks so much for pointing us to that conference address, Karen.  I’m in short supply of patience right now, and reading that address was an answer to prayer.  I suspect there are others who need it, too.   

Our last letter today comes from a reader in Vegas who writes to commend a friend of hers who forgave a trespass that some would say is unforgivable.  Fortunately, there is a video to accompany the story.  I urge all of you to view it.

The greatest example of forgiveness to me has been my friend Chris.  He was recently featured in the video on forgiveness on  The story is so tragic, but so healing at the same time!  

I remember finding out that my friend Michelle and her children had been killed in a car accident, and not only that, it was an underage drunk driver that killed them.  I was devastated.  

I remember hearing that Chris had forgiven this boy immediately.  “How?” I wondered. This thoughtless boy had not only made the stupid decision to drink, but he got into a car and rammed in to my friend and her children, killing more than half of Chris’ family.

But then, at the gravesite, I heard a beautiful dedicatory prayer given by this same man who had lost more than half of his family.  He asked that all of the people there could feel the peace that he and his son felt.  “Yes! Please! I want to feel that peace!” I thought.  It didn’t come right away, but it did come.
I know that four people died that day in February, but more at least three people were “saved” — the boy driving drunk, Chris, and me.  We were all saved from the bitterness, anger and ultimately spiritual death that come with not forgiving.

Because Chris decided to forgive, this young man was saved from being incarcerated for most of his young life, and ultimately allowing all involved to heal.  I’m not saying that a price should not be paid. It must be, but when is that price sufficient?  I think only the Lord can judge that.

We just need to trust that all will be made right with the Lord.

I know that if Chris can truly forgive the man who killed his family, I can forgive the man who killed my friend, and therefore I can forgive anything else that may happen in my life, all because Chris was my earthly example of this Christlike virtue.

Very Grateful in Vegas   
After watching that video, Vegas, I can think of nothing more to add.  Readers, we have enough letters for another week on this subject.  See you then.

Until next time — Kathy

“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”
Bryant H. McGill