I have come to a place In my life where I am having to (slowly and a bit grudgingly) admit that, while there are many things that I have forgiven (and even forgotten) in my life, there are about four or five people that I have never forgiven. One is quite recent, one is a no brainer, and the rest go back to my childhood. This entry will NOT be about the list of wrongs that I didn’t realize I was still holding against them.
I’m still not completely sure what stirred the pot this week, but I was ready to storm the front door of the house of one of the people in question – with the intent to just fully unload all of the feelings that I’ve apparently buried for about a year. The part of me that manages to stay sane knew better, and I sought the counsel of trusted friends who also happen to be leaders in the church.
It’s interesting when two people who have not consulted with each other give nearly the same advice. The counsel I received both times was that it was time to forgive. While it wasn’t terribly difficult for me to admit that I hadn’t fully forgiven even though I thought I had, I didn’t want to let go of the hurt and the anger that was smoldering inside me.
I’ve thought a lot about why I don’t want to let go – why I feel so comfortable with that hurt and anger. What’s strange is to realize that I respect it. Even though it is a weakness, even though it tends to block out the Spirit, Heavenly Father has used it to ignite the will to fight in me when I wouldn’t have had that will any other way. I fought 15 hard years for freedom from my ex-husband and to protect my children from his poisonous views of life. I got kicked in the teeth time and time again – I often walked out of the courtroom thinking the that judge had just dumped on me because he knew that I would be reasonable where my ex wouldn’t, and that I could be relied upon to think in terms of the best interest of my children when my ex wouldn’t. I felt like I got shafted and was handed the bag to keep holding it.
Sadly, I can look back across my life and see that this attitude is a recurring theme: I know that I’m doing my best, trying my hardest to follow “the rules” (or commandments as we call them at church), and I have been left without the things I have desired most time and time again. From where I’m standing, the person that I have been angry with this week is getting away with hurting me and treating me like second-class garbage and will never be called upon to acknowledge it. From this perspective, it BURNS. I feel ROBBED, and I feel CHEATED.
But, I’ve been called to forgive. Not just by two trusted leaders, but by the words of living prophets and the words of ancient scripture. The Holy Ghost is repeatedly whispering to me that I know it’s the right thing to do, and that it’s time. So, why am I holding on to the bitterness so hard?
It’s because a new area of my faith is being tested. I’m having to look at the Savior’s justice and mercy in a whole new light. Do I really believe that, if I am true and faithful, all the wrongs that I have suffered will be fully paid for, that I will receive not only what is just, but what is merciful for me? Can I accept that my limited, mortal view can’t comprehend what blessings I really need? Will I pray to have eyes to see the blessings that are constantly raining down in my life? Will I trust that letting the Savior handle it (the scriptural ‘God judge between me and thee’) will, in the end, be perfectly just and merciful for both of us?
That takes me back to the question that titles this post. Can I do it for Christ? On my own, I can’t do it for the people that I still view with anger and frustration. I really can’t do it for me, because I have issues with being angry with myself and loathing myself. So, can I do it for Christ? Can I acknowledge that I, a sinner, have already been forgiven of so much that I have no right to withhold my forgiveness from anyone else? Will I pray to overcome the resentment and to instead be filled with compassion? Will I live in gratitude for all of the wonderful people and experiences and things that I enjoy in my life and for the way that every tough experience has helped me grow? Will I let these hurts and resentments go?
I truly hope so, and by the grace of my Savior, I will.