If we were to be asked what we wanted more than anything else, I think we would find that most of our answers would be rooted in peace or happiness. I have two phrases that, if we would add a sincere version of them to our regular vocabulary, would go a long way towards achieving the peace and happiness we seek. These two phrases are, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”
There is such power associated with these sentiments. We are taught these concepts at a very young age; however, as adults, they can be very challenging to put into practice.
Throughout the course of our lives, others will do and say things that will hurt us physically, emotionally, even spiritually, most of the time unintentionally, and we will do the same to others. Sometimes, if we receive a sincere apology, all can be forgiven and life moves on. But, there are times we don’t get an apology or if we do, it’s insincere.
With each passing day without an apology, our grudge will grow and may consume us, stifling our hope for peace and happiness. To compound this tragedy, many times the offender does not even know they have done something to hurt us. Or if they do, they have already moved on.
We do not need to wait for an apology to forgive. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean being best friends with those who wronged us or even trusting them again. What it does mean is letting go of the bitterness and anger we might be harboring. Giving up the need for revenge or retribution.
At times, the hurt is so deep that even the sincerest of apologies won’t do. We might feel that what the offender has done is so horrible, they don’t deserve our forgiveness. We may ask, “Do I need to forgive them?” Jesus Christ answered this during the Sermon on the Mount, when He taught, “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.” (Matthew 5:44)
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and through sincere repentance, all may be forgiven. Isaiah taught, “[T]hough your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) This applies to all those who might have wronged us in the past, but this goes for us, too.
For some, the only thing more difficult than forgiving others is forgiving ourselves. We can be merciless on ourselves. We are often our own worst critic. If our friends spoke to us the way we talk to ourselves, would we tolerate it?
We do not need to carry these burdens. It is not what our loving Heavenly Father wants for us. As we let go of our anger towards others and towards ourselves, we will find we are much closer to that peace and happiness we all seek.
Bishop Aaron Lawrie is the Bishop of the Southington Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a member of the Southington Interfaith clergy Asssociation. He can be reach at 860-621-8105 and firstname.lastname@example.org.