Forgiveness is a hard thing.
I think the most important thing to remember about forgiveness is that just because we forgive someone, it does NOT mean they get a free pass for their behavior. I think sometimes we feel as though if we forgive, then the perpetrator is getting away with something.
That’s not the case.
We forgive for ourselves.
We let it go so that we will not be consumed with bitterness. We leave it in the hands of God. We trust that God will punish fairly for the sins of others.
I love the story in the Book of Mormon in First Nephi 7, where Nephi “frankly forgives.”
As his family traveled in the wilderness, Nephi said some things that were hard for them to hear.
8 And now I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, therefore I spake unto them, saying, yea, even unto Laman and unto Lemuel: Behold ye are mine elder brethren, and how is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds, that ye have need that I, your younger brother, should speak unto you, yea, and set an example for you?
9 How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?
These words made his brothers angry.
16 And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me. And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
Can you imagine being treated this way by your family? It’s one thing to be treated badly by strangers, but our family members are the people who are supposed to love and care for us.
When they feel bad for what they’ve done, they ask for forgiveness.
20 And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.
Nephi has a choice. He can forgive them or he can hold onto a grudge. I can’t begin to fathom how hard it would be to forgive in this situation.
21 And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. And it came to pass that they did so. And after they had done praying unto the Lord we did again travel on our journey towards the tent of our father.
Perhaps we can all try to frankly forgive in our own lives.
Many, many years ago, my husband was a scout leader. For some reason, he just didn’t click with this particular group of boys. To this day, he says he should’ve handled the situation differently, but here’s some breaking news . . .My husband is not perfect.
At any rate, one day I was visiting with a mother of one of the scouts. She began to tell me how much she disliked my husband. When I started to cry, she continued on and on. She ended her words with, “And I’m not the only one who feels this way.” By the way, she’s not perfect either.
I was devastated. I went home and cried some more.
The next day she came to my house and apologized. She gave me a package of M&M’s along with her sincere apology.
I was still upset. I didn’t want to forgive. Because of her words, I didn’t even want to go back to church because I now felt as though everyone hated my husband. Did I mention I’m not perfect?
In the end, I did “frankly forgive” her. But it wasn’t easy. I remember eating those M&M’s and savoring every single bite. I figured I’d earned them. And the taste was sweet. My bitterness washed away. I learned how to forgive and this lady and I later became friends. It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.
I learned that I will never let another person ruin my salvation. People aren’t perfect and we will feel offended from time to time. But it’s our job to keep on keepin’ on. Set your sights on your goal and don’t let anyone keep you from returning to your Heavenly Father. Keep on going to church, keep on participating, keep on living the commandments and above all: