When a loved one or a friend has hurt you it can be one of the most painful experiences in life. There are many ways this kind of hurt can happen, but regardless of the cause it can cut you to the core. It can be as simple as an unkind word said about you to someone that finds its way back to you—and it usually does.
This can happen on the job, at church, or in a family. It can be as serious as a mate’s infidelity, which causes the worst kind of pain ever. Or the horrendous tragedy of someone taking the life of your loved one, or abusing a loved one. It can be an adult child who accuses you of being a bad parent, when you tried your best to raise that child with love and caring. It can be a parent who refuses to accept the apology of an errant child who turned on them. The list is endless as to how people can offend or hurt others. If grudges are held, then wounds fester and needless sorrow ensues.
Because this is apparently a big problem today, our Church leaders have addressed it in General Conference talks and other settings. They know only too well how having an unforgiving heart can cause a hurt even deeper than the original offense.
Elder Richard G. Scott in a Conference address quoted the Savior, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” ( D&C 64:10)
Then he quoted from Mark 11:25-26: “And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
“But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Elder Scott went on to clarify how this applies to us today. He said, “If as an innocent victim you have been seriously wronged, don’t harbor feelings of hatred, anger at what appears to be unjust. Forgive the offender even when you are innocent. To do that may require an enormous effort on your part. Such forgiveness is most difficult, but it is the sure path to peace and healing. If there is discipline required for a serious transgression against you, leave that to the Church and civil authorities. Don’t burden your own life with thoughts of retribution. The Lord’s mill of justice grinds slowly, but it grinds exceedingly well. In the Lord’s economy, no one will escape the consequences of unresolved violation of His laws. In His time and in His way full payment will be required for unrepented evil acts.” (Elder Richard G. Scott, October 2004 Gen Conf. “Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind”)
In the most recent General Conference Elder Jorg Klebingat of the Seventy, said, “Become really, really good at forgiving. . . . Forgive everyone, everything, all the time, or at least strive to do so, thus allowing forgiveness into your own life. Don’t hold grudges, don’t be easily offended, forgive and forget quickly, and don’t ever think that you are exempt from this commandment. Spiritual confidence increases when you know that the Lord knows that you bear no ill feelings toward another soul.” (Ensign, Nov. 2014, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence” )
Here’s how it’s done
Some time ago a woman, we’ll call her Celeste (not her real name) came to us, telling of an experience she had, expressing the pain she felt from the hurtful words someone at a group luncheon had spoken about her. She was within earshot and heard the comments herself. They struck like lightning to her heart. The comment would not leave her mind. It kept repeating itself in her thoughts. She, in effect, was nurturing the pain by replaying it over and over again. She said she would sob well into the night with feelings of animosity toward the woman growing daily. The offense grew to gigantic proportions in her mind. It was eating her alive.
Then one Sunday, as she sat in Church, thinking about it during the sacrament, she was filled with the desire to forgive this woman. But how could she? What would that entail? A friend who knew the situation, was sitting near her. The friend, unaware of what Celeste was thinking, leaned over and whispered, “Ask the one who hurt you to forgive you for thinking ill of her.”
Celeste was stunned. Did the Lord just answer her pleading? Could she do what the friend suggested when she was the one who was hurt? Her friend reaffirmed, “Ask the one who hurt you to forgive you for thinking ill of her.” Because she desired with all her heart to be rid of this burden she decided to do it. It took a lot of prayer and faith to have the courage, but she did it. She said, “I now know what it means to have a forgiving heart. The feeling is unbelievably relieving.”
When she made this apology, the woman apologized to her for saying what she did. Celeste now felt a peace she had not felt for a long time.
“Forgive the offender,” Elder Scott said, “even when you are innocent.” The act of forgiving brings peace no matter who is guilty and who is innocent. God will be the judge and do the punishing. We don’t need to bear that burden. He’s the expert and we can count on Him to do exactly what needs to be done.
President Uchtdorf’s admonition
Most of us will remember the talk President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave regarding holding grudges. Loud and clear he said, “Stop it!” He went on to explain.
“Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?”
Knowing this may be a difficult thing to do, he said, “Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking—even a change of heart. But there is good news. This ‘mighty change’ of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring into our lives.”
President Uchtdorf further explained, “How is it done? Through the love of God.
“When our hearts are filled with the love of God, something good and pure happens to us. We ‘keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world’ (1 John 5:3–4).
“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.”
That is the key. He said, “People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
“Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way. . . . Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2012 “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”)
A vital principle for families
Nowhere is this principle more needed than in families. Because of the depth of love we feel for members of our own family, when we are hurt by one of them it’s a deeper hurt than any other kind. When others hurt us it may feel like a dagger has pierced us. When a family member hurts us it’s like an arrow gone straight to the heart, and the pain can be almost unbearable.
We have witnessed on a few occasions the healing power of the atonement as an unfaithful spouse has confessed the sin of adultery and begged for forgiveness. We saw this many years ago in someone who had violated this sacred covenant. We witnessed the sorrow of the spouse who mourned over lost trust, but, with the help of a loving Father in Heaven, and a remorseful and humbled offender, she was eventually able to forgive and enjoy a restoration of love for and with her repentant husband. It was not easy, but by pulling on the power of the atonement—on both their parts—forgiveness came and happiness returned.
We have seen the sorrow that comes to a parent when a child departs from the path of righteousness into the grasp of the evil one. We have seen that it is only through unconditional love and forgiveness that a chance for happiness is possible.
We are moved at every reading of the story of the prodigal son. If you have experienced the pain of losing a child to sin, you know the feeling. You can easily imagine the joy of the father who raced, with open arms, to welcome home his wayward son. You know in your heart you would do the same, even if the child’s behavior had hurt you deeply.
Most offenses in families are not as serious as these. However, they can bring on the kind of hurt that makes you cry in the night for peace in your family. Sometimes all it takes is one or the other of the parties involved to take that first step and apologize—even if, as Elder Scott said, you are the innocent one. Someone has to take the first step and let go of the grudge. This kind of humility will bring the peace the Savior promised to those who love as He loves. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Then in the next chapter he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 13:34 and 14:27).
In our neighborhoods
Some neighborhood relationships can also cause hurt that may seem beyond repair. Several years ago one of our relatives told us of an incident when he and his neighbor seemed to be in a battle of wills. It got so bad they wouldn’t even talk to each other. We can’t recall the exact nature of the problem but we can recall what our relative finally did about it. One day he said he had had enough. He bought a large beef roast, which seemed an odd gift to us, and took it over to his neighbor. When he handed it to the neighbor he said, “Please forgive me for being such a poor neighbor. Please accept this gift as a peace offering. I want us to have a friendly relationship.” And they did ever after. That’s all it took. Someone stepping forward with the offering of peace.
We no longer need to be troubled over the hurt others cause us. As the Savior said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” We can rid ourselves of trouble by calling upon His ever-present love to help us forgive whomever may have offended us. We need to do all we can to keep love and peace in all aspects of our lives, especially within our families. Forgiving others can help make that happen.
[To see Gary and Joy Lundberg’s .99 ebook “Wake-up Call: What Every Husband Needs to Know” click here]