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One thing common to our human existence is that we have all experienced the hurtful behavior of others. Whether the hurt was intentional, unintentional or precisely calculated, if left unaddressed, it often leads to devastating emotional and spiritual trauma.
The Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to forgive all that have injured us in one way or another. The Atonement also allows us to forgive regardless of the reformation or repentance status of the offender.
Let us look to the example of Joseph of Egypt as told in the Old Testament. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of Joseph. His brothers plotted to take his life and eventually sold him as a slave to a passing caravan. Joseph was carried into Egypt and struggled for years to rise from slavery. During his time in Egypt, Joseph could have condemned his brothers and sworn to get vengeance. He might have attempted to ease his pain and suffering by scheming to get even someday. But he did not. Joseph forgave his brothers for the heinous acts and moved on with his life.
As we learn, Joseph became an important ruler over all of Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh. During a devastating famine, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt for food and relief from the famine. When brought before Joseph, they did not recognize him and bowed down to him because of his high position. Joseph recognized his brothers. At that moment Joseph had the power to exact revenge. He could have put them in prison or even sentenced them to death. Instead, he confirmed his forgiveness. He said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither. … And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity … and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
The scriptures teach us that we should not delay forgiveness. As time passes and we continue to replay the hurtful actions of others, we can become captive to our anger which can lead to emotional or even physical cruelty on our part.
In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him,” therefore commanding us to resolve our differences early on, les the passions of the moment persuade us to do or say something we will regret later.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. … To be tied to earlier mistakes is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.”
Forgiveness cannot be earned. It can only be given. Only God can and will judge whether a person has repented. Regardless of how unrepentant a person is, we can move forward and seek peace.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read, “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.”
The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes forgiveness and repentance possible and durable.
Without the gift of the Savior’s Atonement, we would all be fallen and unable to return to our Heavenly Father. We all need the forgiveness that the Lord willingly gives to those who repent.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3: 23
The atoning power of Jesus Christ is available to each and every one of us. As we access this power, we become more empathetic toward others and understanding of each one another’s faults.
When we truly forgive, we can find greater peace and comfort. We admit that we are reliant on God and allow Him to take our heaviest burdens.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11: 28
Elder Kevin R. Duncan of The Seventy has said, “The Savior’s Atonement is not just for those who need to repent; it is also for those who need to forgive. If you are having trouble forgiving another person or even yourself, ask God to help you. Forgiveness is a glorious, healing principle.”
Former President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “Most of us have not reached that stage of compassion and love and forgiveness. It is not easy. It requires a self-discipline almost greater than we are capable of. But as we try, we come to know that there is a resource of healing, that there is a mighty power of healing in Christ, and that if we are to be His true servants we must not only exercise that healing power in behalf of others, but, perhaps more important, inwardly.”
It is my hope and prayer that we may begin to understand forgiveness, and, that we may offer our forgiveness more abundantly as a way of healing for ourselves and others.
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