Monday, June 24, 2013

Writings from 2011 and today: To Forgive

I must confess a great amount of distress upon the completion of Mockingjay, the last book of Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games series. For a people to over-turn its nation because of the barbarity of their control tactics and then turn around and condemn the children of those who committed the crimes to the same horrors is revenge - pure and simple.

Some people believe similar suffering of guilty parties will relieve their own. They believe it is their right as victims. They often blame every wrong in their lives on the one who wronged them. Some become obsessed with it. It festers into an ultimate grudge leading to horrible actions.

I've often heard the comparison that 'holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.' Clearly illogical and rather foolish. Remembering the hurts and all the dark circumstances can actually bring about good, depending on the purposes. A wound must be kept clean to prevent festering. But to keep the memories alive for the purposes of hate, of revenge, leads to becoming the very thing you condemn.

So... what? You just let it go? Pretend it never happened? Forgive?! It's funny, or rather, sad, how often that term, that idea, is found offensive to the wounded. That happens, I believe, because it is often mis-employed by both the well-meaning and by impatient, uninformed busybodies. (This second group, particularly, can become a great hamper on the healing process.)

The phrase 'forgive and forget' is so over-used that those who have not yet faced such deep harms have come to believe that forgiving is forgetting. They fail to understand that to actually forget would be unhealthy as that would require denying reality. And that could eventually lead to instability when the truth ultimately rears its head. Forgetting is also foolish. All things in life add to our experience - our knowledge of the world and of ourselves - and to deny that experience is to limit our ability to respond, to cope, and to make wise decisions.

So then we're stuck, right? We can't build our existence around the trauma without the risk of losing ourselves, and we can't live in denial or risk losing our grip on reality. Or is this where 'forgiveness' comes in? In a particular sense - yes.

Forgiveness is not pretending the offender never offended. That is focusing on the past. How? Because by spending your energy denying what was, you are ultimately feeding all your energy into what was. In the past. Forgiveness is about not letting the past continue to harm the future.

For me, this has always been easiest by understanding the position of the offender and by knowing that life is a process of learning. Since no-one is perfect, it follows that mistakes, misunderstandings, and various offenses will inevitably occur. And I don't hold myself on some pedestal expecting to be shielded from all such occurrences. Life happens. I'm undeniably part of life (my own, at least). I will, therefore, experience the 'ups and downs' of life like everyone else. By recognizing this, I often no longer even have to worry about forgiving as I no longer see it as an 'offense'.

But sometimes it's not so easy to find an excuse for the offenders. The information needed is just not available or else they have no valid excuse. Then what? That's usually when I start pleading with God because I just can't understand. This is particularly distressing to me as my whole life is building understandings of the world around me. It becomes the unanswered 'why' that distracts my attention and disrupts my peace.

This is where I, personally, have to employ forgiveness. To do so, I have to remind myself that God is Judge. My access to information is limited, as is my ability to understand all things. His is not. I may be unable to find the excuses I desire that normally allow me to put the effects of life in a context I understand. He doesn't have that problem.

It is around this point when I realize I've been leaving out one very important context: faith. God is the Judge. I don't have to worry about prosecuting. I don't have to be the defense attorney (my usual method). Even more, I don't even have to testify. I am free. Because Christ suffered all the Atonement allows us to forgive - to turn it all over to Him, and to move forward with our lives. And it lets us rebuild with His help.

Regardless of the state of the person I have to forgive, I am free. They can deal with God as they will. If they pose no danger, we can work on rebuilding our relationship. Remember, forgiveness and repentance do not automatically negate natural consequences: the person the drunk driver killed is still dead. However, sharing love with them can bring healing to both parties. At the same time, avoiding an unrepentant abuser is not only perfectly acceptable, it is wisdom, pure and simple.

But this brings us back to the hard part of forgiveness. How do we deal with it when we see that person still living in a threatening way? How do we forgive when the automatic response any thought of them brings is fear? How do we not keep getting mad that we have to deal with scars that no one should have to have? Scars that others who haven't been there themselves can't even comprehend.

Once again, the answer lies with God. Through Christs' Atonement, we have the proof that all things will be made right. In our own lives and our own futures. In those around us. And ultimately in the lives of those who may have put us in this position. We pray for them that they will make themselves right with God to receive of His mercy, but if not, we can know that try however they might wish to, they can't fool God. And God will make it right. And that means we don't have to. Which also means we won't get ourselves into trouble trying to and putting ourselves in the wrong as well.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:
 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
 10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
 11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.
The Lord offers the forgiveness and healing of His Atonement to all who will repent and receive of it. So long as we do not stand in the way of others, we will find the peace and healing we need. And we will be free to move forward with hope of better things to come. All in all, I'd say forgiveness is a pretty darn good deal.

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