The remedy of forgiveness

Bamboo, botanically classified as a giant member of the grass family, is a great phenomenon of nature.

When bamboo is planted, it grows underground, sometimes for years with no visible indication above ground that it is there. During that time, it establishes an extensive root system. Then, suddenly it sprouts out of the ground in an explosion of growth. An employee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's bamboo farm near Savannah, Ga., said a species of giant or timber bamboo can grow to its full height of up to 72 feet within six to eight weeks, crowding out nearly every other plant.How like the bamboo do our long-repressed feelings of hurt and resentment sprout forth and crowd out many positive aspects of our lives. Too often, we "bury" hurts and offenses, and they grow inside, in our subconscious, sometimes for years. And they multiply, especially when we constantly turn them over in the fertile soil of our memories. They amass roots that reach like tentacles into our very souls.

When something happens to bring those feelings to the surface, there might be an explosion of emotion. Pent up feelings of anger or resentment often are vented, sometimes upon those we feel are the perpetrators but often upon innocent bystanders. Then we may become depressed or feel guilt or shame. We almost never feel better about ourselves after such an outburst.

We might realize it is dangerous to nurture such feelings but don't know how to stop their growth. However, there is one sure way: Instead of burying our feelings of hurt, anger or resentment, we can get rid of them by forgiving those by whom we feel the offenses have come.

It is important for us to forgive others because harboring grudges, nurturing hurt feelings and seeking revenge can make us sick, spiritually and emotionally as well as physically.

Forgiveness is a great cleanser, a powerful healer. It is a balm to troubled souls, a poultice to wounds that fester the heart.

However, if the remedy of forgiveness is to work in our lives, we must administer it full strength. Sometimes, to our spiritual and emotional detriment, we pour out conditional forgiveness: "I'll forgive him if he changes." "I'll forgive her when she apologizes." "I'll forgive them this time, but never again." And, there is the classic: "I'll forgive, but I won't forget." Also, we might postpone forgiveness: "I know I should forgive him." "I must forgive her." "Someday, I'll be able to forgive them."

None of these constitutes forgiveness. To be effective, forgiveness must be total and it must come from the heart. The Lord has lifted from us the burden of choosing whom we are to forgive. He proclaimed a universal law:

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts - let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds." (D&C 64:10-11.)

Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve wrote in an article published in 1914: "We are required to forgive all men, for our own sakes, since hatred retards spiritual growth."

In His exemplary prayer, the Savior taught that we should ask to be forgiven our debts, "as we forgive our debtors." (Matt. 6:12.) It will be much easier for us to ask the Lord to forgive us of our wrongdoings if we first forgive those who have wronged us.

We are admonished to forgive many times. When Peter asked the Savior how often he ought to forgive his brother, Jesus replied, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22.) Every time we experience or remember an offense against us, we must forgive.

We might need to remind ourselves that forgiving does not mean we condone the wrong that has been done. We must forgive the offender, but we can abhor the offense.

Some offenses might not be put out of our lives easily. Some people bear physical scars, are in constant pain, or are impaired through injuries inflicted upon them by assailants or careless individuals. Others have sustained emotional or psychological scars that might require extensive therapy before they are healed.

Harboring hatred, anger or resentment helps offenses become rooted in our lives; their ill effects grow so abundantly that they retard the healing process. Forgiveness, the best therapy of all, will accelerate it.

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