In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said,
“Ye have heard that it has been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Sometimes trivial, petty things can hurt us and we really have no legitimate reason to be offended. But we all have had big hurts. We have each suffered from the actions of others, which cause legitimate pain. In Christ’s sermon, he did not differentiate between the little hurts and major suffering. He commanded us to forgive all things. He goes on to say,
“For if you love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publican so?”
It is clear that in giving this commandment, he understands he is asking his followers to do the hard thing. Forgiving those that seriously, and deliberately hurt you is not easy.
FOR YOUR OWN GOOD
We have all heard it, and some of us who are parents have probably said it. “I’m not talking just to hear myself speak.” It is our way of saying, “What I am telling you right now is useful information. It’s something you really need to make your life better.” The Lord never talks just to hear himself speak. He gives commandments because it is useful information we need. It’s something we really need to make our lives better.
Many people are under the impression that forgiveness is for the person you are forgiving. To a certain extent that may be true, but forgiveness is always for you and your wellbeing. Notice that Christ did not say, “Forgive those that deserve it.” He did not say, “Forgive those that have made amends.” Our forgiveness should be unqualified. There are no minimum requirements the offender needs to meet. The offender does not even have to ask for forgiveness, or even know he is being forgiven.
PRAY FOR THEM
In a discussion with Oprah Winfrey, author and lecturer Marianne Williamson advised Oprah to pray for those who have offended her. Ms. Winfrey’s initial response was, “PRAY FOR THEM?!” Ms. Williamson then makes a powerful point, and it is the point the Lord was making when he commanded that we pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. She told Ms. Winfrey that if she will pray for that person everyday for 30 days one of two things will happen. Either the person will change, or you will. What a powerful insight. Either way your life will be better. When Ms. Winfrey said that praying for an offender is hard, Ms. Williamson asked which is harder, praying for an offender or walking around everyday with anger and bitterness eating away at you?
Forgiveness is the most important step in conquering hurt. Perhaps that’s why the Lord commanded us to do it. He knew that without forgiving our offenders, we would continue to suffer not only the hurt, but also the toxic debilitating load of anger and bitterness. Forgiving others allows us to heal the pain of the past and move forward.
Elder Richard G. Scott, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “Bitterness and hatred are harmful. They produce much that is destructive. They postpone the relief and healing you are looking for. Forgiveness heals terrible, tragic wounds, for it allows the love of God to purge your heart and mind of the poison of hate. It cleanses your consciousness of the desire for revenge. It makes place for the purifying, healing, restoring love of the Lord.”
QUOTES ABOUT FORGIVENESS
“Carrying a grudge is a heavy burden. As you forgive, you will feel the joy of being forgiven.” – Henry B Eyring
“Forgiveness is powerful spiritual medicine. To extend forgiveness, that soothing balm, to those who have offended you is to heal. And, more difficult yet, when the need is there, forgive yourself!” – Boyd K. Packer
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
For more quotes on the topic of forgiveness see the Quotes on Forgiveness page.
“The Power of Forgiveness“ Author Marianne Williamson talks with Oprah Winfrey about the power of forgiveness and prayer (4:16, Source – Oprah Winfey Network via YouTube).
“Required to Forgive” W.W.Phelps tells how he was forgiven by Joseph Smith (7:52, Source – lds.org).
For more related material see the Forgiveness Topic Page.