I would like you to imagine for a moment that you are imprisoned having committed no crime. In fact, you are the victim. Now, close your eyes and visualize your surroundings…what do you see…what do you feel? As your eyes scan the prison cell, you discover that the key to unlocking your freedom is right at your very fingertips…it is a stretch, but within your reach. You reach for that key and grasp it, holding on tightly. Anticipating your chance to once again be free, you start walking towards the prison door. Eagerly, you bring the key towards the lock only to suddenly come to a stop. Doubt and fear work its way into your mind. “This key probably won’t even work” you say to yourself, “why should I bother trying?” You begin to rationalize your decision, and soon feel justified in not using the key at all. And there you remain…locked in a prison cell to which you hold the key.
This story is not as far fetched as it may sound, and I would make a guess that each and every one of us have been in this situation at least once in our lifetime. What exactly am I talking about? I am talking about forgiveness.
Failing to forgive can make one a prisoner to pain, sorrow, anguish and even anger. We all will at times be hurt by the actions or misdeeds of another to varying degrees. In no way am I trying to minimize the deep hurt and devastation that can come as a result of the actions of another. Rather, it is my intent to help ease that pain and suffering. I speak from personal experience as one who has been hurt very deeply by the actions and misdeeds of another. It is my hope that the lessons that I have learned will be of some help and support to you.
I have learned that justice is not a prerequisite to forgiveness. In fact, sometimes justice does not come at all in this earth life…yet we are required to forgive. I have learned that it is not necessary for the offending party to apologize first before we grant forgiveness…we are still required to forgive. I have learned that the one who hurt us may never make amends or change behaviours…once again, we are required to forgive. Consider the following scripture: “I, the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10) I once found this scripture to be painful…it hardly seemed fair. But you see, the Lord in his infinite wisdom knew that requiring forgiveness of us was the only way to begin to heal our broken hearts and take away our pain. Metaphorically, forgiveness if the key that unlocks our prison door.
So why is it that we fail to use the key that has so mercifully been given to us? Perhaps it is because we fear that by forgiving the individual(s) who hurt us, we are saying that what they did to us was okay. Let me clarify that this is not at all what forgiveness means. Justice, mercy and forgiveness are three distinct principles with a time and a place for each. One simply does not replace the other. Another reason that we fail to forgive is possibly because we feel justified in our animosity. Justification is always a dangerous thing. Do NOT allow yourself to go there. Justification results in a hardened heart, bitterness and pain. God will heal a broken heart, but he will not heal a hardened heart. Please consider the following statement:
“I can forgive but I cannot forget is another way of saying I cannot forgive.” -Henry Ward Beecher
How true that is! Forgiveness is more than just a word…it is a process that involves a change of heart. Failing to forgive halts our own happiness and progression. If you have been a victim once, do not allow yourself to be a victim twice by living a life trapped by pain and sorrow. Do not allow someone else’s actions to affect the course of the rest of your life. I was recently told by a friend that “the best parts of our lives are shaped by our reaction to the worst parts of our lives.” Such wisdom and hope comes from that statement! I have experienced for myself the miraculous healing power that comes with forgiveness. Sincere prayer in combination with the help of my Saviour enabled me to forgive, and I can’t even begin to describe the weight that was lifted from me! It was as if the prison door swung open and I was free to enjoy life in all of its fullness once again…pain and sorrow were replaced with peace and joy.
This ends my fifth day of my challenge to experience joy, and I found a lot of peace and healing from today’s challenges and assignments. Here is my diary entry and reflections on day 5:
“I really benefited from the focus on forgiveness today. I read “The Healing Ointment of Forgiveness” and gained better insight and understanding on this topic. I appreciated Elder Kevin R Duncan’s words: “One key to forgiving others is to try to see them as God sees them. At times, God may part the curtain and bless us with the gift to see into the heart, soul and spirit of another person who has offended us. This insight may even lead to an overwhelming love for that person.” I am truly striving to see others as God sees them…what a change of perspective doing so brings! I look forward to the start of Day 6 where the focus will be on the Joy of Meditation and Prayer.”
Day 6: The Joy of Meditation and Prayer
- Pray…really pray, and listen.
- Read “The Privilege of Prayer” by Elder J Devn Cornish
- Participate in a Yoga class.
- Listen to peaceful, calming music.
- Be accountable to someone.
- Reflect in your journal.
Today’s reading assignment: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-privilege-of-prayer?lang=eng