8.24.2010

What I Believe: I Can Do Hard Things....Including Forgive

Lots of times I don't want to....do hard things that is.  Especially forgive.

Do you ever feel that way?

I try not to make that attitude a habit.  But there are situations that I'm not sure I'm ready to stop being prickly over.  Of course I remember my own transgressions, and then think "If I don't forgive then it'll be as if I've never been forgiven."  And I really don't want to forfeit the blessings of having gained full repentance...it's tricky, ya know? 

"For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." 

I'll admit, sometimes my forgiveness of others starts out a little begrudgingly.  But it doesn't usually STAY that way.  Ya know how they say smiles are contagious?  Same with forgiveness.  It's true.  There's also the saying "Fake it 'til ya make it."  It's true also.  Cause once you get on the road to forgiving others, it's difficult to detour from that since forgiving others feels so good as we're growing through that process.

And yeah, for me, forgiveness is still a process.  At this point, I'm not saintly enough to be at the point where I can just shoot instant-forgiveness from the hip.  Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy all the time?  Like a Freeze-Ray gun, only an Instant-Forgiveness gun?!  That would be seriously cool.
 (BAM, Forgiven!...BAM-BAM, Double-Forgiven!...)

Sometimes it feels like trying to pry your arm from a piranha's mouth to forgive someone else.  My dad, way back when, taught me to "Kill 'em with kindness."
That helps start that process for me, sometimes.  No kidding.  The more kindness involved, the easier it is to be around that person, and the easier the forgiveness starts to flow.

We had a great Stake President while we were living in Eastern Idaho.  He'd speak and we just knew he & the Lord were in constant contact.  Ya know what I mean?  He was so inspired, all.the.time.  One Stake Conference I remember distinctly was when he addressed the topic of Forgiveness & how it pertains to us...by teaching on this scripture: "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."  (D&C 64:10)
The emphasis he made was it that is required to forgive all men and women!

I get that this is not a new concept, but for some reason at that point in my life, I needed to remember that.  We ladies get our feelings injured too easily, whether its from within our families, or circles of friends, or even at church.  It's our job to offer instant-forgiveness in the form of not being offended in the first place.  May sound crazy, but it's true.  More than half the time, the offender is unaware that they caused any harm to the offendee!  So really, who's the one with the sticky sin on their hands then?

Reminds me of this fabulous talk given by Elder David E. Sorenson back in 2003:
"I grew up in a small farming town where water was the lifeblood of the community. I remember the people of our society constantly watching, worrying, and praying over the rain, irrigation rights, and water in general. Sometimes my children chide me; they say they never knew someone so preoccupied with rain. I tell them I suppose that’s true because where I grew up the rain was more than a preoccupation. It was a matter of survival!


Under the stress and strain of our climate, sometimes people weren’t always at their best. Occasionally, neighbors would squabble over one farmer taking too long a turn from the irrigation ditch. That’s how it started with two men who lived near our mountain pasture, whom I will call Chet and Walt. These two neighbors began to quarrel over water from the irrigation ditch they shared. It was innocent enough at first, but over the years the two men allowed their disagreements to turn into resentment and then arguments—even to the point of threats.


One July morning both men felt they were once again short of water. Each went to the ditch to see what had happened, each in his own mind reckoning the other had stolen his water. They arrived at the headgate at the same time. Angry words were exchanged; a scuffle ensued. Walt was a large man with great strength. Chet was small, wiry, and tenacious. In the heat of the scuffle, the shovels the men were carrying were used as weapons. Walt accidentally struck one of Chet’s eyes with the shovel, leaving him blind in that eye.


Months and years passed, yet Chet could not forget nor forgive. The anger that he felt over losing his eye boiled inside him, and his hatred grew more intense. One day, Chet went to his barn, took down the gun from its rack, got on his horse, and rode down to the headgate of the ditch. He put a dam in the ditch and diverted the water away from Walt’s farm, knowing that Walt would soon come to see what had happened. Then Chet slipped into the brush and waited. When Walt appeared, Chet shot him dead. Then he got on his horse, went back to his home, and called the sheriff to inform him that he had just shot Walt.


My father was asked to be on the jury that tried Chet for murder. Father disqualified himself because he was a longtime friend of both men and their families. Chet was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

After many years, Chet’s wife came to my father and asked if he would sign a petition to the governor, asking for clemency for her husband, whose health was now broken after serving so many years in the state penitentiary. Father signed the petition. A few nights later, two of Walt’s grown sons appeared at our door. They were very angry and upset. They said that because Father had signed the petition, many others had signed. They asked Father to have his name withdrawn from the petition. He said no. He felt that Chet was a broken and sick man. He had suffered these many years in prison for that terrible crime of passion. He wanted to see Chet have a decent funeral and burial beside his family.


Walt’s sons whirled in anger and said, “If he is released from prison, we will see that harm comes to him and his family.”


Chet was eventually released and allowed to come home to die with his family. Fortunately, there was no further violence between the families. My father often lamented how tragic it was that Chet and Walt, these two neighbors and boyhood friends, had fallen captive to their anger and let it destroy their lives. How tragic that the passion of the moment was allowed to escalate out of control—eventually taking the lives of both men—simply because two men could not forgive each other over a few shares of irrigation water.


The Savior said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him,” 1 thus commanding us to resolve our differences early on, lest the passions of the moment escalate into physical or emotional cruelty, and we fall captive to our anger.


Nowhere does this principle apply more than in our families. Your specific concern may not be water, but each of us on earth, living under the stress and strain of this telestial climate, will have reason—real or perceived—to take offense. How will we react? Will we take offense? Will we find fault? Will we let the passions of the moment overcome us?


President Brigham Young once compared being offended to a poisonous snakebite. He said that “there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system.” He said, “If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.” 2
 

Now let me take a moment here to note that we must take care in our families not to cause spiritual or emotional snakebites in the first place! In much of today’s popular culture, the virtues of forgiveness and kindness are belittled, while ridicule, anger, and harsh criticism are encouraged. If we are not careful, we can fall prey to these habits within our own homes and families and soon find ourselves criticizing our spouse, our children, our extended family members. Let us not hurt the ones we love the most by selfish criticism! In our families, small arguments and petty criticisms, if allowed to go unchecked, can poison relationships and escalate into estrangements, even abuse and divorce. Instead, just like we learned with the poisonous venom, we must “make full haste” to reduce arguments, eliminate ridicule, do away with criticism, and remove resentment and anger. We cannot afford to let such dangerous passions ruminate—not even one day.


Contrast Walt and Chet’s tragic story with the example of Joseph of Egypt. Joseph’s brothers jealously hated him. They plotted to take his life and finally sold him as a slave. Joseph was carried into Egypt and struggled for years to rise from slavery. During these challenging times, Joseph might have condemned his brothers and sworn revenge. He might have soothed his pain by scheming to get even someday. But he did not.


In time, Joseph became ruler over all of Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh. During a devastating famine, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt for food. Not recognizing Joseph, they bowed down to him because of his high position. Surely at that moment Joseph had the power to exact revenge. He might have put his brethren in prison or sentenced them to death. Instead he confirmed his forgiveness. He said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither. … And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity … and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” 3
Joseph’s will to forgive changed bitterness to love."


It's something I'm continuing to work on.
I'm not perfect by any means, especially with this principle. 

Currently I'm struggling with a situation that's been the most difficult to overcome.  Forgiveness isn't just flowing from me.  What's more, I know there are changes that will soon be coming, and I'm not sure I can just accept them.  I'm not sure I can welcome them.  And if I can't forgive & accept, then how can my family?  That is what scares me.  I'm trying to forgive what's in front of me now.  I'm praying for the ability to forgive.  It's just taking more time than I want.  So when new developments come to pass, will I be overcome by my inability to be ready for that next step in forgiveness as well?

Now I'm sure this is all very encoded & confusing to most.  Just know that it is the biggest inner-conflict of my life.  Perhaps that's why I'm unsure of myself and my timing.  And why I need to process through it here.

I know what the Lord requires from me as far as forgiveness goes.  And I try to gauge where I'm at in the forgiveness process sometimes by asking myself how I'd feel in the Temple to be standing next to a person I'm trying to forgive.  The Holy Temple is a place where we should all feel kindred with one another.  No hostility.  No grudges. So I ask myself "Can I feel that way with this person?"  If my answer is no, then I've got more work to do.

I guess this is truly the point where trust comes in.  Perhaps I don't feel I can  trust a certain individual at this time, but I can trust God.  I should put everything into trusting Him.  If He requires we forgive all others, then I should be able to take the hugest breath & jump in with both feet, trusting that He will make this hard thing possible.  Right?

I've done hard things before, because He's been by my side.  I can continue to do hard things with His help.  Including forgiveness.  Hopefully Heavenly Father can see that I'm trying, and the desires of my heart are to forgive and forget.


I want to move past all this.  I really do.
Man this is not easy.  But that wasn't the promise, was it?
Worthwhile was the promise.

So, here's to holding my breath & jumping...

10 comments:

Kim said...

Oh my dear friend~

I will never forget feeling this way about 3 years ago when our stake did ward splits and our family ended up in ward, we had once before been in and I loathed! I couldn't understand why this ward was so important to me and my family.

I will never forget going to the bishop and talking with him about my feeling the very 1st week and also discussing with him my fears of who was going to be the next RS President. My fears did come true. Man, difficult times ahead. As I have gone through these years, I have had experience I would have never had. I have stretched and grown through these experiences and I have also learned to trust the Lord and that I can go to Him to vent. Usually, once I am done venting that is when I start asking for forgiveness of my weaknesses and when I start doing that the healing begins.

If there is any advice I can give to you at this time, I want you to read 2 things for me. 1st read the book "The Peacegiver" How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes by James L. Ferrell. I promise you will find answers, if you continue to trust in the Lord. 2nd, read President Monsons talk on "School Thy Feelings O Brother. These are 2 of my favorites books and talks in the world and were both given to me at a time I was struggling the most. They both helped me in different ways to forgive and heal.

I too, struggle with this concept and the everyday struggles are a battle I continue to fight. I am truly grateful that I have met you through blogging and hope to someday meet you.

BTW--"The Hard Things" is the motto for the Portland Oregon Mission. As my son would say--you are definately not taking the easy way out. Keep doing "the hard things."

Garden of Egan said...

Beautiful thoughts my dear friend.
I think you are pretty normal and I think everyone has to do that "hard thing".
I too, am working and praying for just that.
Forgiving and forgetting.

Cherie said...

Keely - This is truly one of the hardest things we have to do in life. I have been here, I have done a few posts on forgiveness to try and better internalize it myself and one of the things I had to come to terms with is that just because you forgive someone it doesn't mean they care or that they will change.
So frustrating. I have people in my life who have hurt me deeply but they must remain in my life because of who they are. They never apologize - I just keep forgiving and it sometimes doesn't feel fair but it always feels...better - Ya know?
The Atonement helps so much and if we forgive we really do grow.
I wish you the best my friend. I hope you get it all worked out.
{{{Hugs}}}} to you!

jen said...

Thanks for a timely post. I am struggling a bit myself with this issue. I'm still in the "It's not my fault and they did me wrong" stage.
Thanks for the kick in the butt I need to move on.
And good luck to you.
HUGS

M-Cat said...

Inspired post. Right now, dealing with a situation with a bunch of women, and the reminder of forgiveness is just what I needed.

THANK YOU!

And thanks for your kind comment over on my Marine post. Support like yours is appreciated!

Connie said...

Whenever I'd hear talks like this, I'd try to figure out why someone would go through their life not forgiving someone else. Then something happened in my life a few years ago, that has made me realize just how hard it is to forgive. I'm trying too. Thanks for the thoughts today. I needed them.

You take care and I hope you can overcome your feelings too.

S.I.F. said...

Forgiveness is one of the things that I struggle with the most. I am too prideful when it comes to protecting myself, and when I let someone close enough to hurt me - all my defenses go up when they do. It's like this wall that I can't possibly take down, even if I want to.

I struggle with it daily. Even with my dad, who I am so close to; I still have anger and resentment. I'm sure he has no idea that is still and issue, since I work so hard to conceal it - but it is there. I fight it, but it is there.

The poit is, I don't think forgiveness is easy for any of us, and I think you're right; I don't think it was ever meant to. It is difficult and frustrating, and sometimes I think it can be a lifelong battle.

But one thing I have learned is that forgiveness and understanding are not the same thing. I do not need to understand a persons actions in order to forgive them - in fact, I may never understand their actions. But being able to move forward in my own heart is really all that matters. Understanding my own actions is all I have to live with.

Lots of love to you pretty lady...

Kellee said...

Amen to all you said. Forgiveness really is hard. I've been struggling with that this last year and trying to find peace and forgiveness for some specific individuals. I felt like it was on the uphill and than something would happen, I'd be feeling that inner turmoil and ugly feeling, and have to start all over again--guess I didn't really complete the forgiveness process the first time. I think its a continual process for me, do you think we'll get credit for trying? I sure hope so because I seem to need a lot of practice and have never perfected it!

Valerie said...

Thanks for sharing all your thoughts and the quotes and scriptures. I'm sure that like all things, Heavenly Father doesn't expect us to be instantly perfect at forgiving in difficult situations. It's the fact that you are trying and praying for it to come that counts. I hope that your situation gets easier to accept.

LKP said...

thanks to all of you & your supportive comments on this. it's a doozy for sure. i've got that book & i printed out the talk, kim. can't wait to sink my teeth into it all. i need all the help i can get here.
and i think you're all right, we gotta keep at it. no it's not as instant as we'd all like, and yes i think we get points for trying.....i guess that's the beauty of the process of forgiveness...it takes effort, and time...just like precious metal. it will refine us for something greater. =)
love you all. thanks, you mean the world to me!

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