We have a hard time with forgiveness. Very few people, when asked, think they hold grudges or are not forgiving, but when it comes right down to it, they don't forgive. They might think, "If I forgive, that means that I condone what he did, and I don't condone what he did, so I'm not going to forgive him." The Savior did not condone the crucifixion but He forgave those who crucified Him: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
The Lord said, "I will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (D&C 64:10.) I think we can safely assume we are to forgive everyone - all men, women and even ourselves.How do we forgive? There are three things that seem to be essential:
- Say we forgive out loud. We need to hear ourselves actually say it for it to truly happen. We have a tendency to say, "I can't do that. It would be embarrassing to say it out loud. I'll just say it in my mind." We mumble in our minds most of the time. There is something about hearing the words spoken aloud that makes all the difference in the world.
- Be specific when we forgive. We have a tendency to generalize and say something like, "I forgive everyone who has ever offended me," or "I forgive myself for everything I've ever done wrong." Obviously, this statement is way too general. We should say who it is we are forgiving and what we are forgiving them for.
- Put forgiveness in the present tense. We have a tendency to say, "I'll forgive," or "I've got to forgive," or "I need to forgive." These all sound like we're saying, "And someday I will forgive."
When we don't forgive, we carry burdens of guilt, anger and hurts that often make us sick, if not just weighted down.
The ideal would be to learn to not take offense in the first place but, until we can learn that principle, we need to forgive quickly and not allow the feelings to fester. When we take offense at something our loved ones say or do, it's fairly easy to forgive. Occasionally we feel offended by someone we really have a hard time forgiving. When this happens, we need to think of them as giving us an opportunity to become more Christ-like by practicing the principle of forgiveness.
Can you imagine a world in which we all sincerely practiced the principles of forgiveness?