"Of you it is required to forgive", Lesson 23, George Albert Smith, given by Ellen King
By forgiving others, we free ourselves from the burden of hatred and prepare ourselves for eternal life.That is the promise of this lesson. It's more about you and what's going on in your heart. So look inward.
This is always a good lesson because who here has not been hurt by:
- A parent who did or didn't do or say something.
- A teacher who did or didn't do or say something.
- A bishop who did or didn't do or say something.
- A visiting teacher who did or didn't do or say something.
- An employer who did or didn't do or say something.
- A husband who did or didn't do or say something.
- A friend or neighbor who did or didn't do or say something.
The hurt may be perceived or real. A realistic or high expectation that was unmet. A disappointment. A regret. A careless, thoughtless word or comment. And so on.
Forgiving others is good for our souls. Forgiveness frees us from the festering resentment. When we forgive we are told that our sins will be forgiven by God. Our hearts become clean and we can move into a brighter future without the burdens of the past. We are prepared to meet God.
A fine example
George Albert Smith learned a young age and incorporated that learning into his life.
In 1897, while still a young man, George Albert Smith enlisted in the Utah National Guard. At the encouragement of some of his companions, he ran for an elected office in the Guard, but during the weeks leading up to the election, a rival guardsman began spreading false rumors accusing George Albert Smith of unethical practices. As a result, Sergeant Smith lost an election that he felt he should have won. What made the situation more difficult was that the man who spread the false rumors had once been a friend.Though he tried to brush it off, the offense filled George Albert Smith’s heart with bitterness. He went to church the following Sunday, but he did not feel right about taking the sacrament. He prayed for help and realized that he needed to repent of the resentment he was feeling.
...A few years later, George Albert Smith made forgiving others one of his lifelong goals when he wrote in his personal creed: “I would not knowingly wound the feeling of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend.”
A close associate of President Smith observed that the ability to forgive was indeed one of his defining attributes: “Truly he forgave all men. He was aware in all of his life of the commandment of God: God will forgive whom he will forgive. As for us, we must forgive all men. He could do that, and then refer the matter to God. As he forgave I am sure he forgot. When one who forgives can forget, then truly that man is an unusual man, indeed a man of God!"That's our goal, to love unconditionally, forgive all. But none of us is there yet.
If we understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are more disposed to forgive others.
How does understanding the gospel make us more disposed to forgive? What do we know that others don't? How might that help us forgive?
There is one thing that we could well strive to cultivate, and that is, the disposition to forgive one another our trespasses. The spirit of forgiveness is a virtue without which we shall never fully realize the blessings we hope to receive.The people of the world do not understand … how the Savior felt when in the agony of his soul, he cried to his Heavenly Father, not to condemn and destroy these who were taking his mortal life, but he said:“… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)That should be the attitude of all of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That should be the attitude of all the sons and daughters of God and would be, it seems to me, if they fully understood the plan of salvation. … Anger and hatred in our hearts will not bring us peace and happiness.The Lord has given us great information, has revealed His mind and will unto us, has taught us things that the world knows not of, and, in accordance with the information we have received, He holds us responsible and expects us to live a higher life, a more ideal life than those who do not as fully comprehend the Gospel as we do. The spirit of forgiveness is something that the Latter-day Saints might with profit exhibit more fully among themselves. … We must get into a condition where we can forgive our brethren.
We have the big picture. The plan of salvation tells us about the life before, the reason for this life, the possibilities of the life to come. More than any other church. Perhaps that big picture can keep us from getting caught up in trivial, petty hurts.
We know about the true nature of God, his love for us, all of us; His plan for us; His commitment to our agency and growth; the promise of our future.
How do we get in that "condition where we can forgive"?
Perhaps by now you are thinking of someone that has offended you in some way.
So, you tell me about this person, and your emotions rise and you feel the hurt again, and I say, “You just need to forgive that person.”
Okay, you’re thinking, just like that [squint and concentrate and grunt] ...and there! It’s done! Just like that. All forgiven.
Easy right? No, it is not that easy. So, how is it done?
Let me share some ideas and I’ll ask you to add your own thoughts.
- Make a list.
Who hurt you? Who do you feel victimized, mistreated, used, or abused? Who has rejected you, or caused you pain? Who has disappointed you?
Take the opportunity to get it all out. The goal is deep healing.
President Thomas S. Monson explained that "conflicts in relationships often come from unresolved disputes, which lead to ill feelings, followed by remorse and regret.” Other conflicts ―find their beginnings in disappointments, jealousies, arguments, and imagined hurts. We must solve them—lay them to rest and not leave them to canker, fester, and ultimately destroy (Thomas S. Monson, Hidden Wedges, Ensign, May 2002, 18). [I highly recommend this entire talk.]
Make sure your own name is on that list.
How many times have you repressed your own feelings and thoughts, neglected yourself, believed untrue things about yourself, kicked yourself over a mistake, demanded too much of yourself, not trusted yourself? Sometimes we punish ourselves harshly.
President Thomas S. Monson explained: "There are some who have difficulty forgiving themselves and who dwell on all of their perceived shortcomings. I quite like the account of a religious leader who went to the side of a woman who lay dying, attempting to comfort her—but to no avail.
'I am lost,‘ she said. 'I‘ve ruined my life and every life around me. There is no hope for me.‘
The man noticed a framed picture of a lovely girl on the dresser. 'Who is this?‘ he asked.
The woman brightened. 'She is my daughter, the one beautiful thing in my life.'
He said, ‘And would you help her if she were in trouble or had made a mistake? Would you forgive her? Would you still love her?‘
'Of course I would!‘ cried the woman. 'I would do anything for her. Why do you ask such a question?‘
'Because I want you to know,‘ said the man, 'that figuratively speaking, Heavenly Father has a picture of you on His dresser. He loves you and will help you. Call upon Him.' (Thomas S. Monson, Hidden Wedges, Ensign, May 2002, 18).
- Be willing. (Sometimes we call this a broken heart and contrite spirit.)
Open you mind and heart to the process. Resolve to seek peace and healing in your life, in yourself, in your relationships.
Perhaps our hurt or anger is justified, but hanging on to that justification is not pleasant. It festers, it isolates us, it causes deep emotional pain.
Be willing to be at peace with the people in your life, willing to be free of guilt, fear, resentment, and being “the victim”.
Forgiving someone does not mean we condone their actions or words. It does not mean we have continue to take what someone has to dish out. It means we want to learn from it and move on.
It means a change of heart, our heart. It begins with a vision of what that healing and love can be in our lives.
It means being willing to be directed by God. And he will direct you.
It means dropping defenses and pride, and cleaning things up.
It’s the beginning of a transformation.
- Fully work through the feelings.
Often we have stuffed them down, denied how we felt.
Open yourself to the feelings.
It’s the grieving process: Denial, resentment, anger, sadness, to acceptance. Feel those feelings fully.
Run a hot bath, shed some tears, write in journal.
Write a letter to that person to help you clarify your feelings. Then throw it out.
This may take time, but don’t go too long. The idea is to face your feelings head on and feel them.
Often your eyes will be open to something you need to learn about taking care of yourself, establishing some boundaries, or trusting your own wants and needs.
Or you may see your part in it and what you need to do to make amends.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained: "The Spirit has a near-impossible task to get through to a heart that is filled with hate or anger or vengeance or self-pity." (Jeffrey R. Holland, CES Fireside for Young Adults, Lessons from Liberty Jail, Sep. 7, 2008, Brigham Young University).
Ask God to help you forgive, to let go, even to forget.
It is partaking of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Here are some things that have worked for others:
- Sometimes it helps to ask God to bless that person, to shower happiness on him/her.
- Try saying aloud “I forgive you”. Hearing your own voice is powerful. Say it aloud to God and he will confirm it or let you know what the next step is.
- Force yourself to think good, positive thoughts about the person.
- Ask God to give you the gift of forgiveness and restore the relationship.
- Don’t seek this too soon before all the feelings are felt, but don’t wait too long.
- Don’t force this. It will find you.
- Only go to that person if the Spirit directs
Forgiving a person does not give them permission to continue to treat us poorly.
Forgiving a person doesn’t mean they even need to know.
Forgiving a person doesn’t mean they will apologize.
Sometimes forgiving a person means talking to them, or making amends. God will guide you as to what to do and say.
- Recognize the gifts forgiveness brings
Letting go of resentment is the key to the gift of forgiveness.
The gift may be the lesson we learn about ourselves and our relationship. Sometimes that’s all we take away.
The gift is feeling right in our hearts and with God. A peace like no other.
The gift is the personal growth.
The gift is freedom of conscience.
The gift is a brighter future and better relationships, unhindered by the past.
Ultimately, the gift is eternal life.
Our goal is to forgive and forget the incident, when we have accepted and healed from it. We strive to remember only our lesson from the experience. We learn we can be grateful, for many have come into our lives to help us learn and grow—sometimes through opposition, sometimes through love, sometimes by reflecting to us what we need to work on in ourselves.
- Avoid taking offense.
George Albert Smith: "By choosing to not take offense, we can purge from our hearts all feelings of unkindness."
Elder David A. Bednar taught: "When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false." (David A. Bednar, And Nothing Shall Offend Them, Ensign, Nov 2006).
President Thomas S. Monson taught: "Sometimes we can take offense so easily. On other occasions we are too stubborn to accept a sincere apology. Who will subordinate ego, pride, and hurt—then step forward with, 'I am truly sorry! Let‘s be as we once were: friends. Let‘s not pass to future generations the grievances, the anger of our time.'" (Thomas S. Monson, Hidden Wedges, Ensign, May, 2002, 18).
By forgiving others, we prepare ourselves for the celestial kingdom.
George Albert Smith:
Let each of us live in such a way that the adversary will have no power over us. If you have any differences one with another, if there have been any disagreements between yourself and your neighbors, settle them just as soon as you possibly can, under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, in order that when the time comes both you and your descendants who may be following after you may be prepared to receive an inheritance in the celestial kingdom.
...We will be in this world only a short time. The youngest and strongest of us are simply preparing for the other life, and before we get into the glory of our Father and enjoy the blessings that we hope to receive through faithfulness, we will have to live the laws of patience, and exercise forgiveness toward those who trespass against us, and remove from our hearts all feelings of hatred toward them.Sisters, forgiveness is hard, but possible, and oh so necessary, so...
...May we have the Spirit of the Master dwelling within us, that we may forgive all men as He has commanded, forgive, not only with our lips but in the very depths of our hearts, every trespass that may have been committed against us. If we do this through life, the blessings of the Lord will abide in our hearts and our homes.
Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God . . . will be with thee. (1 Chr. 28:20)