45. How to Forgive
This is Entrepreneurs of Faith, a Sunday episode of Monetization Nation. I’m Nathan Gwilliam, your host. Today, we’re talking about how to forgive.
“Leave it Alone”
There was a man named John who was deeply in love with his wife, and they were expecting their first child. The night the baby was to be born, there were complications. The only doctor was somewhere in the countryside tending to the sick. After many hours of labor, the condition of the mother-to-be became desperate. Finally, the doctor was located. In the emergency, he acted quickly and soon had things in order. The baby was born and the crisis, it appeared, was over.
Some days later, the young mother died from the very infection the doctor had been treating at another home that night. John’s world was shattered.
As the weeks wore on, his grief festered. “That doctor should not be allowed to practice,” he would say. “He brought that infection to my wife. If he had been careful, she would be alive today.” He thought of little else, and in his bitterness, he became threatening. Today, no doubt, he would have been pressed by many others to file a malpractice suit.
A church leader asked to speak with him. The counsel was simply, “John, leave it alone. Nothing you do about it will bring her back. Anything you do will make it worse. John, leave it alone.”
This became his trial — his Gethsemane. How could he leave it alone? Right was right! A terrible wrong had been committed and somebody must pay for it. Finally, he determined that he should be obedient, follow the counsel of the church leader, and leave it alone.
It was not until he was an old man that he could finally see a poor country doctor — overworked, underpaid, run ragged from patient to patient, with little medicine, no hospital, few instruments, struggling to save lives, and succeeding for the most part. The doctor had come in a moment of crisis, when two lives hung in the balance, and had acted without delay. If the young father had not left it alone, it would have ruined his life and the lives of others. Many times he thanked the Lord for the advice of a wise spiritual leader to “leave it alone”. (Source: Boyd Packer)
We Want to Forgive, but How do We Forgive?
In this episode I will focus on an important lesson the Savior taught from the cross when he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
This is not a talk about why we should forgive. We already know that. We want to forgive, and we try to forgive. But, sometimes we still see the person who hurt us, and those negative emotions bubble up again. This episode is about HOW to forgive.
What Forgiveness is Not
Before I begin, I want to make 3 clarifying points.
1. Forgiveness is not a weakness. Gandhi said “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
2. Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong that was done to us. It is not saying that what they did is ok.
3. Forgiveness does not mean putting ourselves or others in an unsafe situation again.
Jeffrey Holland said: “Christ taught ‘I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.’ It is, however, important for some of you living in real anguish to note what He did not say. ‘You are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another.’ Nor did He say, ‘In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’”
Now, I will address 7 secrets that can help us to forgive.
Secret #1: We can CHOOSE to love and forgive.
Maybe a good first step in the forgiveness process is to write down who we choose to forgive, and for what. Then, we can write the reasons we love and are grateful for the person.
Thomas Monson said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
In 2004, a group of teenagers used a stolen credit card to buy a 20-pound frozen turkey in Long Island. As they drove, an 18-year-old named Ryan Cushing threw the turkey out of the car and into Victoria Ruvolo’s windshield. The impact broke every bone in Ruvolo’s face, which required a 10-hour surgery, three titanium plates, and a wire mesh for her left eye socket to correct. The teens were arrested shortly after, and several of them agreed to testify against Ryan. Cushing would have faced up to 25 years in prison if he was convicted. Instead, Ruvolo intervened on his behalf and worked to get him amnesty for the crime, and he was imprisoned for only 6 months. Ruvolo wrote, “Some people couldn’t understand why I’d done this but I felt God had given me a second chance and I wanted to pass it on.” (source: The Forgiveness Project and the NY Post)
Secret #2: We can replace that darkness and hurt with light and love through acts of kindness.
One of the first and best ways to replace darkness with light and love is for us to pray for that person.
We can pray for Heavenly Father to bless that person. We can express gratitude for the good things the person has brought into our lives. We can pray for strength and courage to forgive. We can tell our Heavenly Father that we have chosen to forgive the person. Then we can pray for our hearts to change, to let go and ask that we can then feel love in place of hurt, sadness, anger, and resentment. We can ask Heavenly Father to help us see that person how He sees them.
Matthew also exhorts us to: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” with special emphasis on the phrase “do good”. I think that’s one of the biggest secrets to being able to forgive.
Choosing to forgive and letting go of the darkness is not enough. We must fill the darkness with light. If someone has hurt us, we can serve them, do good to them, and watch as darkness evaporates and light and love start to increase in the place of the hurt and resentment.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Mary Johnson lost her son in 1993 after a then-teenaged Oshea Israel got into a fight with him at a party, and shot him. Johnson went to visit Oshea in jail. After their first contact, she said “I began to feel this movement in my feet. It moved up my legs, and it just moved up my body. When I felt it leave me, I instantly knew that all that anger and hatred and animosity I had in my heart for 12 years was over. I had totally forgiven [him].” The two now live as neighbors in the same duplex, and Johnson has even referred to Israel as “son” in interviews.“ (source: The Daily Beast)
Secret #3: We must forgive others so we can be forgiven by the Savior.
Matthew 6:14–15 teaches, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Thomas Fuller said, “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.”
In 1918, three law officers were murdered when they attempted to arrest several criminals. Glenn Kempton’s father was one of the officers killed. Glenn is my great uncle. The murderers were captured, tried, and sent to prison for life. As a boy, there grew in Glenn’s heart a bitterness and a hatred toward Tom Powers, the confessed slayer of his Father. One day, Glenn was on a business trip in Arizona and detoured to the prison where Tom Powers was being held. He arrived after visiting hours and spoke with the warden, who arranged the meeting with Glenn and Tom. The two had a long talk and at the end, Glenn shook Tom’s hand and said, “With all my heart, I forgive you for this awful thing that has come into our lives.” Glenn says it is a glorious thing when bitterness and hatred go out of your heart and forgiveness comes in. As he walked out the door and down that long flight of steps he knew that forgiveness was better than revenge, for he had experienced it. As he and his wife drove toward home, a sweet and peaceful calm came over Glenn and he had found a broader, richer, and more abundant life. (source: The Miracle of Forgiveness)
Secret #4: We can remember that everyone makes mistakes, especially ourselves.
We are all human, and therefore, we are all prone to making mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Knowing and recognizing our own faults allows us to give others the right to make their own mistakes. (Source: Allan Halls) We can seek to understand the hurt and traditions of the fathers that contributed to the person doing what they did.
We can think of the many things we have done for which we need forgiveness. When we remember how much for which we need to be forgiven, it makes it easier to show mercy to those who have hurt us.
We can also give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they have good motives.
Forgiving can also become easier when we remember a time when we were forgiven, focusing on how it made us feel. (source: Louisya Graves)
According to People, teen Jordyn Howe took his stepfather’s gun to school and accidentally shot Ady Guzman-Jesus’s daughter, Lourdes, while showing the firearm to friends. Astonishing the judge and community, Guzman-Jesus not only forgave the boy but also asked for him to get a lighter sentence, telling reporters that she believes her daughter would have wanted it that way. Howe will only serve one year in a juvenile detention center and will visit local schools with Guzman-Jesus to warn kids of the dangers of guns.
Secret #5: We can move on with the next chapters in our lives.
Our past histories are not here in our present realities. We shouldn’t allow them to be here in our minds, muddying our present moments. Our lives are like plays with several acts. Some of the characters who enter have short roles to play; others, much larger. Some are villains and others are good guys. But all of them are necessary, otherwise, they wouldn’t be in the play. We can embrace them all, and move on to the next act.
Former South African leader Nelson Mandela was sent to prison in 1963 on charges of trying to sabotage the nation’s government, which advocated a policy of apartheid that treated people of different races differently. Mandela advocated a democratic society in which all people would be treated equally. Mandela spent the next 27 years in prison, but after he was released in 1990, he forgave the people who had imprisoned him. Mandela later became South Africa’s president and delivered speeches internationally in which he urged people to forgive each other because forgiveness is God’s plan and, therefore, is always the right thing to do.
Secret #6: We can become more like Jesus Christ by forgiving.
Learning to forgive is part of our journeys to become more like the Savior.
When we hold on to anger and resentment, we lose the Spirit, and the help from the Spirit to forgive. When we choose to forgive, we can receive the help of the Spirit to forgive.
Sandra Walker, a mother of two, lost her husband in a car accident that also caused her to have a life-changing brain injury, according to The Daily Mail. At the trial for the accident, in her court statement, Walker said she sympathized with the woman who crashed into them — who herself lost a child in the accident — and gave her a hug. “I know she is going through as much pain as I am feeling. I wanted her to know that I forgive her for what she did,” Walker told WSB-TV.
Secret #7: We can give it to God.
Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, by letting God carry the burden of judging and punishing. We don’t have the wisdom or strength to do those things without hurting ourselves and others. (source: Sherrie Call) Forgiveness is in part trusting that God will take care of things. Romans 12:19 teaches, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” In this scripture, Christ is asserting his role of judge and is wanting us to trust his judgments, let go, and move on. It’s a tender mercy. He’s asking us to trust his perfect understanding of the lives, abilities, and circumstances of all. I believe that as long as we have faith in Christ as a redeemer and as a judge, we don’t need to stew over those who have wronged us. Christ will give them what they need and will give us what we need. He knows that better than us, and we can trust Him. Once we’ve given it to God, it’s not ours anymore. It’s His, and we cannot hold onto it anymore. (Source: Samantha Abildskov)
If we try to forgive, but the feelings of hurt and resentment come up in the future, we can go through this process again. If we need additional help, we can find that help through prayer, fasting, and sometimes professional counseling.
I challenge each of us to pick someone today who we need to forgive and to go through appropriate steps to “leave it alone”, to forgive them, and to receive the liberating power of forgiveness in our lives.
I am so grateful for the forgiveness I have received from my Heavenly Father, from my family, and others. I am grateful for Jesus Christ’s atonement that has made this possible. I’m grateful He is quick to forgive us when we sincerely repent. I know that as we forgive, we will also be forgiven.
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