Saturday, March 28, 2009

Becoming a More Forgiving Person

As I come to the end of this month, I look back on my resolution and realize I have not gained any new and deep insights that are earth-shattering and incredibly profound. However, I have gained a much deeper understanding of the concept, and I am grateful for the experience.

Having said that, I had an interesting epiphany as I was preparing to write this post, and I want to share it as my summary about forgiveness:

In order to need to forgive when forgiveness is difficult, one must be harmed in a way that the person feels as unwarranted and/or intentional - or not understandable. When pain or harm is seen as warranted and/or unintentional, when it is relatively easy to understand why the other person did what they did, it is much easier to forgive.

As I pondered this epiphany, it struck me HARD that learning to see others as God sees them - learning to be charitable in our expectations of others - learning to not be offended by the words and actions of others - becoming meek and merciful - this is the single most powerful way to be able to forgive. It also is a way to avoid the need to forgive in many of the more "minor" cases of harm - since a meek and merciful person will be less inclined to be offended and less likely to feel the need to forgive in the first place.

In summary, becoming a forgiving person BEFORE major pain and harm occurs is key.


Rosalie Erekson Stone said...

Thank you for this post. It has helped me clarify some thoughts I have had about forgiveness and charity, and will help me to be more sensitive to spiritual promptings in my family relationships.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post Ray, and I totally agree with it.

I have experienced the need to exercise this kind of forgiveness in my life, but I've never been quite able to verbalize it the way that you have here.

Another interesting thing, I think that being this type of person - one who is truly full of Christ's charitable love - takes daily recommittment. And as we continue to work to become Christlike in this fashion, we can be hurt, but we are also healed through the power of Christ's atonement - which enables us to understand more of his love.

"Happiness comes more from loving than being loved; and often when our affection seems wounded it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, and to be hurt often, and to love again - this is the brave and happy life." - J. E. Buchose.

Thanks again for the post.

Bruce in Montana said...

Thanks Ray,
It's tough at times to recognize and drop the pride that keeps us from being meek and able to forgive.
Whether it manifests itself in work relationships, road rage, or the unwillingness to change, it seems the most difficult human attribute to overcome.
Praying for those who treat us unfairly really does work but how often do we forget to do that..

Papa D said...

RoAnn, I had struggled with exactly what to write for this post, and that insight hit me late in the process. It actually changed the way I was structuring the post - as I began to write it. It was a neat experience, and I'm glad it helped.

Choc, thank you for that incredible quote. I am going to copy it and use it as a stand-alone post in the future - one of those Tuesday or Thursday posts that usually link to someone else's post.

Bruce, I agree that there is a direct link between forgiveness and praying for those who despitefully use and persecute us. If you are interested, here is a link to my thoughts on not reviling those who revile us:

Tiffany Wacaser said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciated this post. I learned more about forgiveness in a deep and personal way over a period of several years. Several years ago, I learned that my uncle had molested one of my sisters. I can't tell you how many hours I spent reading the scriptures, praying for peace and trying to let go of the murderous desire to enact revenge upon my uncle. I think the hardest part of the forgivness process was the number of people that often insisted that part of forgiving another person was a reconciliation process. Because my uncle refused to acknowledge his actions or seek any type of repentance and my grandparents and other relatives shielded him from his actions, I felt reconciliation was impossible under the circumstances. Eventually, healing and peace entered my heart. I can say that I have forgiven my uncle for his actions. And forgiving him freed my heart from the prison of hate and fear that it was trapped in.
This experience made it much easier to forgive others for thoughtless words or actions. I know that I could even forgive great sins if I needed to.

Jen said...

I consider myself a forgiving person overall and one that doesn't take offense easily. I think I consider myself in that way because, with the Lord's help, I have been able to forgive several people in my life who have deeply hurt me.

I realized though, as I have read this post, that there is a person that has affected my life so significantly and in such a negative way that I have not forgiven them and to be honest I have no desire to. I could say that I despise this person and that would be putting it mildly. This is not typically the type of person I am at all. This person changed my life completely from what it could have been to what it is now and it has been a living hell at times. I feel no mercy whatsoever, no compassion (I do realize at times I have felt it for this person though) and no desire to forgive. I could tell you all the things that holding onto resentment and anger do to a person and how it is a commandment to forgive, but it doesn't seem to be enough for me to be able to actually do it.

At this point, I realize I am taking a risk because this is when others start to say, well you aren't humble enough or praying enough, etc, etc. But I can honestly say, I have never spent more time on my knees than in the past few years of my life. I have had to forgive major offenses in my life and still I find nothing changing in my heart in relation to this specific person.

When I read the scriptures about praying for those who despitefully use you, and loving your enemies, I don't know HOW to do that. I wish I did, it is painful not to be able to. I wonder what I am missing, because I deeply care for others, I love the Lord and I seek after His will. This is truly a thorn in my side that I want to be rid of.

I would be interested to know what others have done to forgive someone who has caused severe pain in their lives and changed it dramatically from what it could have been to what it is. I would like to know what it is like to get on the other side of it.

Papa D said...

swedemom, thank you for sharing that example. I know a family that was nearly destroyed because of sexual abuse, and I have seen how hard it is for the woman who stepped in, picked up the pieces and loved those kids back into a healthy life to forgive the perpetrator. It's been a few years since the abuse occurred, and this wonderful woman still has not reached a state of peace and forgiveness - but I have to believe God understands and will overlook her struggle in light of her tremendous sacrifice for those children. I have to believe he will bless her even if she never is able to fully forgive. I hope, however, that she will reach that state at some point.

What makes it even more difficult for her is that the perpetrator has been released from prison, has gone through counseling and a rehabilitation program and has moved back in with his wife (who physically abused his biological children) and their children. Further, because he appears truly to have repented, he just received a temple recommend and will baptize their child soon.

That added layer can cause deep anguish and pain for the person who picked up the pieces of his family's shattered lives and, as a result, struggles to believe her truly has repented - who continues to feel that he simply didn't suffer enough - who sees what he did to his daughters and can't believe she might see him in the temple some day.

Forgiveness is not easy in cases like this, and I truly do believe that God understands that. Truly there are thorns some of us will not be able to remove in this life, but we are required to desire to have those thorns removed and, no matter whether they are or are not, to endure as faithfully as we can to the end.

Papa D said...

Jen, part of my answer to you is in my response to swedemom, but I want to add one thing.

Praying for those who despitefully use you is hard - very hard. I don't believe in crafting a word-for-word prayer for anyone, but I do believe that there are situations where thinking through a prayer in advance, writing down what you want to say and reading it to your Father in Heaven is more than OK - that there are times when it is wonderful.

I might say something like, "Dear Father, I can't bring myself to pray for (_____________), but I do want to forgive him/her. Please help me to see this person as you see this person - or, at least, to be able to forgive if possible or endure to the end if I can't forgive."

Imo, this is a variation on, "Lord, I believe; help me mine unbelief" - which I think is one of the best, most touching prayers in all our recorded scriptures. I believe you will be able to forgive this person at some point, but if you can't, I believe God will understand and bless you for your effort. Who knows; maybe He is allowing you to continue to struggle in order to magnify your humility and teach you other things you need to know in the meantime that you might not be able to learn if this thorn were removed.

No matter what, I pray that God blesses you in unimaginable and powerful ways.

Anonymous said...

One thing that has helped me has been to understand that to deserve to be forgiven I need first to accept that those who have hurt me can be forgiven too.
When I have surrendered to Christ I have accepted the price He has set which is that no matter what has hurt me, the pain is mine and I can grow from it but the offense is His and I have no claim over it.
If I claim it then others are entitled to the same and I'd rather pay Christ's price because His is only about my salvation when others' is about revenge.
This is why I feel that I can never forgive enough and I can never be good enough to pay Him back, because He does not want us to pay Him back not even one tenth of the offense. He want us to learn to be perfect in how we love others and the fastest way to learn this is through our ability to forgive.
Something else about forgiveness and Christ is that it would be better FOR US to master this in this life. But this is not what He is expecting us. I mean doing it if this is not a gift we had at birth would be like the icing on the cake for Him but He is aware that this can be much to ask sometimes.
So sometimes all that He is asking is to keep trying and to never forget that this is important. To never feel that we're right in the way we feel about those who offend us. Our feeling may be legitimate but it does not make it right.
Keeping this in mind can help us stay on the right track on this subject.
The ability to forgive will come when we're ready.
I am not doing much better than those who have written here and I aggree with what has been said: it is not because you have forgiven once a deep offense that you're done. We still need to forgive again and again and again...
I have forgiven my father for what he did to me but I can't forgive him for how he hurts my youngest sister's feelings almost every time he sees her. I have a hard time with the lies I know he spreads. I have a hard time with the feelings I know he harbors against me for bringing in the open what kind of person he is really.
It is ok.
I will master it someday. All that I want to do is to have a desire to forgive him and someday it will come.

Jen said...

Thanks Ray for your response. I am grateful that you brought up writing down my prayer, because I have actually written letters ("prayers") to Heavenly Father before, but I haven't done it in a while and didn't think of doing it in that context. I appreciate your insight. The idea of writing down a prayer also reminded me of the concept of a negative feelings journal in which you write down all the negative feelings you are having about someone or something and then you destroy what you have written (making sure not to go back and reread it) however you see fit...shredding, burning, etc. It is supposed to help rid oneself of hurt and pain and allow healing to begin.

The scripture you quoted about the Lord helping us with our unbelief is one that I have thought of often lately. I really do believe that if we are WILLING the Lord can and will make up the difference for us. I believe it is when we are unwilling that we make it much harder than it needs to be and create a lot more sorrow and pain for ourselves.

I think that main reason I feel the way I do right now is because I am living in the middle of a situation that was brought about because of another person. When we have a lot of wounds that are festering and not being healed it can be hard to find the capacity to forgive. I know the Lord knows my heart and that I only want to do His will and I believe too that forgiveness will come in time.

Thanks for your kind and uplifting comments. I appreciate them very much.

Tiffany Wacaser said...

Jen, I can understand many of your feelings. I realize that my situation is not exactly the same. But as I struggled to forgive my uncle, it took me a long time before I even had a desire to forgive him. I didn't want him to be forgiven by Heavenly Father. After all, he had done horrible damage to my sister and to several of my cousins. I wanted him to PAY with fire and damnation. It wasn't until later that I realized he was paying, even if I didn't see it. He didn't have a normal marriage or happy relationships. He didn't enjoy the blessings of the gospel that I did. And I also had to realize that God is both just and merciful. And I think the merciful part comes in when you think about the atonement. I could only ask for eternal damnation for my uncle if my sister could never heal. Yes, her life has been dramatically changed and I can't even imagine that burdens she struggles under. But I also believe that her heart and soul can be healed from the Atonement.

Sometimes we are afraid to forgive because we think by doing so, that we're saying that it was okay what the perpetrator did. It's not really about that at all. It's about releasing your heart from the need of revenge and fear. It's about choosing to let go of the pain and no longer be a victim.

I once read that it takes victims of sexual abuse at least 15 years after they have actually acknowledged the abuse, to heal from that. I don't think it is any easy or quick process. But, I do have faith that healing can happen and that Heavenly Father is very aware of his children who have been deeply wounded.

Jen said...

swedemom, I am in the place that you were at one time, in that I have no desire to forgive and I don't want Heavenly Father to forgive them either. Even though I know this person has lost everything in their life (relationships, church membership,etc.) they live as though they could care less and still have an attitude of deep ingratitude. It would seem like they are suffering, but it really makes me wonder, because if a person really doesn't care, do they suffer? Having a psychology background and a lot of experience with difficult situations I know that this person is suffering, but it really is hard for me to is strange.

As you can tell this is a deep wound for me and one that I realize I need significant help. I have forgiven very painful things in my past and so this has taken me by surprise in some ways. It has made me realize that no matter how often we have forgiven we have to continue to do so. One thing that makes it incredibly hard is I am living with the consequences everyday of this person's choices and so I have daily constant reminders. I know that it is only hurting me, but there is something that I can't or won't let go.

I had an impression come to me recently and in a loving manner in which I felt that Heavenly Father wanted me to forgive Him for allowing these things to happen. I have pondered that and wondered if it is Him I am struggling with more than this person. I have,in some ways, felt betrayed by the Lord and it could be that I can't seem to rectify that I am angry with Him, because of the conflict it creates within me. I have always loved the Lord more than anything and have always wanted to do His will, so the conflict of feeling betrayed and turned out by Him is very difficult for me to process.

I have so many things in my life to be grateful for and I find much happiness and joy in my life, but I also am living in a deeply painful and difficult situation and have felt forsaken by the Lord. I have been falsely accused by some and amazingly it is as though the Lord set me up to be. Truly, it is hard to understand why, but I keep going everyday hoping for the relief that I seek someday.

I don't think I can heal until I my circumstances change in my life. I feel that the Lord has allowed me to feel many things to gain experience and I have learned so many lessons through this situation, but the wounds run very deep and are very hard to bear. I think that is why I turned to blogging because I have felt alone in so many ways.

Like you, I know that Heavenly Father can heal wounds, for He has healed mine in the past. At this point it is about His timing. All I can do is hope that it is sooner than later.

Thanks for your sharing your thoughts, they have been helpful and I really appreciate them.

Papa D said...

Please carry on this conversation as long as you like. I am being greatly edified because of it.


Tiffany Wacaser said...

Jen, I'm so sorry for what you've gone through and are presently struggling with. It's really awful.