Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Time to Forgive

It's almost Christmas, and that always makes me step back and evaluate where I am in the process of life, who I am, and what I'm becoming.  It's about the analysis of my progression, I guess.  I'm 57 years old.  There's been a lot of living in that time, and a lot of time to get into trouble.  Trouble seems to be my middle name.  As we walk through life, hopefully we learn a few things.  One of the things I've learned is that there is no way you can please everyone.  There is always going to be someone who doesn't understand your intentions, doesn't like what you do, or just plain doesn't like you.  That's okay.  What matters is that you never intentionally hurt someone, that try to make amends to those who you unintentionally hurt, and that you forgive those who misunderstand.

It has not been easy for me to learn to forgive.  Actually, I've spent my whole life attempting to learn the principle.  I'm getting better, but I have not completely mastered it.

On January 3, 1971, Elder Richard L. Evans had this to say about forgiveness in a broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word:
"Once a year—or oftener—all of us should clear out the clutter, the things that are useless to us, that get in our way and add confusion to our lives and impede our progress.  But even oftener we should look at our unforgiving grudges, and not nurse them or hold to them or keep them alive.  An unresolved grudge gnaws at our hearts, disturbs our peace, and is a burden we would well be rid of.  God will forgive whom he will, but of us it is required to forgive.  We should forgive not only for what it does for others, but as a favor to ourselves, because forgiving relieves us of a lingering uneasiness inside ourselves.  Oh, what easing of our relationships with loved ones, and with others also, with a lightening of our own lives, as we learn to forgive!"
The older I get, the more I realize how short our time is here on earth.  The kinds of things that would infuriate me in my youth don't seem to bother me anymore.  Little injustices just don't seem to matter.  There was a time when I could really hold a grudge.  I don't anymore.  I get angry.  I get hurt.  I get over it.  There is just so little time for drama, and I don't have the energy for it.  What good is it?  Does it serve any purpose?

We're coming to the end of a year and the beginning of a new one.  It is the time of year we think about the Christ child, His life, and the atonement.  What better time to throw out the meanness in our hearts.  Bitterness breeds more bitterness and even hatred.  Forgiveness breeds forgiveness and kindness.

Roderick J. Linton said in The Forgiving Heart, April 1993 Ensign:
"Forgiveness is a personal attribute, not just a decision we make from time to time when we feel we should.  To have a forgiving heart is to see the world in a different light.  It is to forsake the tendency to judge, condemn, exclude, or hate any human soul.  A forgiving heart seeks to love and to be patient with imperfection.  The forgiving heart understands that we are all in need of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
A forgiving heart is one of the most Christlike virtues we can possess.  If we have a forgiving heart, our very nature will be kind, patient, long-suffering, and charitable.  Forgiveness plants and nourishes the seeds of Christlike love in both the giver and the receiver.  Indeed, forgiveness, in its fullest expression, is synonymous with charity, the pure love of Christ."
There is our challenge.  Will it be the status quo, or shall we stand a little taller?  Will we make forgiveness our own personal attribute?  Will we learn to have a forgiving heart?  Having a forgiving heart takes effort.  It isn't something that comes naturally to most people.  How much effort are we willing to devote to have a forgiving heart?  I would venture to say that probably the most important thing we can hope to learn in this life is the principle of forgiveness.  It is attainable.  We just need to put forth the effort.  Through prayer, we can have His help.  I publicly promise this day that I will do my best to stand a little taller.


  1. While I appreciate the concept of forgiveness and having a forgiving heart - I do think some people take advantage of it. What is your response to someone who does not change their ways, who continues to engage in the hurtful and cruel behavior that affects a spouse or children. I do not think there is anything admirable in being considered "long suffering" in this regard.

    I also think that forgiveness is not a right but rather is earned by being truly sorry, changing the bad behavior and making amends, asking forgiveness, and not doing the the same hurtful things over and over again. Said another way if you continue to act in a hurtful and sinful manner you are not seeking forgiveness nor are you entitled to it. Actions always speak louder than words - and there are and should be consequences for the things we do in life.

  2. Great piece, Laurie. I have spent the last couple of years learning how to forgive and you are right, it takes effort! I respectfully disagree with Tessa, however. For me, forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with whether the offending person deserves it; they rarely do. I cannot change someone else's behavior, or heart, or spirit; they will do as they will no matter how much I try to convince them to stop. Instead, I forgive because I deserve it. I deserve to release the hurt, the anger, the resentment that someone else's behavior has caused. And I deserve to distance myself, emotionally and physically if necessary, from the repeat offenders so there is nothing to forgive in the first place.

  3. Sorry it took me so long to respond, I was with two of my grandchildren this afternoon.

    @Tessa, people do really awful things to one another. I wish you and I and Wendy could change the world, but we can't. What we CAN do is to move on the best way we know how, and in order to do that, I think we have to forgive. I think @Wendy said it much better than I could, so please read her comment above. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean that we continue a relationship, either -- especially in the case of abuse or neglect. Sometimes distance is needed. In order to heal -- and to trust others again -- I think we have to forgive. Again, I'm not very eloquent, so please read Wendy's comment -- it's perfect. Thanks, Wendy!

  4. Thank you Wendy and Laurie for you thoughts. Perhaps I read your original comments as forgiving and keeping the person in your life and giving them any number of chances. My experience with people who do terrible things and then want to be forgiven and given another chance has been that they do the same thing again and take advantage. Since both of you mention distancing yourself from the person, I am can see that forgiving might give a person the opportunity to move on. I do think you have to walk away from the person who does not change their behavior and I do not believe that a person who has been given several second chances really deserves any regard in the future. This is an issue we are dealing with right now so I am rather raw over it, but I believe that forgiving and then blocking that person from your life is probably the way to go.