This talk was given by Tadiana Jones in Alpine, Utah in 2007.
Talk on Forgiveness/Not Judging
A newspaper columnist, Sidney J. Harris, once said: “I am the man in the middle; for the middle is, by my definition, where I stand. … I am a ‘friendly’ sort of person; anyone more friendly than I is ‘familiar’; anyone less friendly than I is ‘aloof.’ I am an ‘open’ person; anyone more open than I is ‘brutally frank’; anyone less open than I is ‘devious.’ … I am a ‘determined’ person; anyone more determined than I is ‘pig-headed’; anyone less determined than I is ‘indecisive.’ … I am a ‘realistic’ person; anyone more realistic than I is ‘cynical’; anyone less realistic than I is ‘naive.’
Although we are the same in so many ways, we are all different as well. And sometimes those differences lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, even offenses and prejudices. We each have a need to forgive. We each have a need to be forgiven.
It’s interesting that the request to give this talk on the subject of forgiveness and not judging others too harshly came just 2 days after the first meeting of our Relief Society book club. We had chosen the book “Left to Tell”, which I was totally unfamiliar with. It’s the story of a woman named Immaculee Ilibagiza who lived in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide of Tutsi people by the Hutu people.
- It was a mini-Holocaust – in only 90 days, between ½ and 1 million people were killed, often by their neighbors (out of a country of 7 million).
- Immaculee’s parents and 2 of her 3 brothers were brutally murdered (the 3rd was out of the country)
- She spent those 3 months hidden in a 3x4 foot bathroom by a sympathetic priest. 5 additional women were in there with her. They could not talk but communicated in sign language. They could be fed only scraps. She lost 50 pounds in 90 days, going from 115 to 65 pounds.
But in all this, her faith sustained her, and in the end she found herself able to forgive. [story from pp. 203-04]
This book reminded me very much of another book, “The Hiding Place”. Stan and I have a favorite quote he has used a couple of times on his quote sheet for SS:
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there-- the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing, "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!" His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them, Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on his. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself.
The thing that impresses me so much about this quote is how Christ helps us do what we could not do alone. We don’t have to overcome our angers, our resentments, and in fact any other sins or shortcomings by ourselves. He is there to help if we will call on him.
President Brigham Young once compared being offended to a poisonous snakebite. He said that “there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system.” He said, “If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.”
At one time or another, we all receive and even give these spiritual snakebites. Sometimes these snakebites are truly venomous, like the ones received by Immaculee, Corrie ten Boom, and more recently in the Amish tragedy, and the drunk driver in Utah who killed most of a family. The father was able to forgive.
Sometimes the snakebites are not so poisonous, but still painful: insults and ridicule (esp. children and teenagers!), criticism, feeling alone and lonely…
Whether the spiritual snakebite is from a king cobra or a garter snake, we need to put aside anger, vengeance and grudges and allow forgiveness and peace in our hearts instead.
D&C 64:8-11 Carrying anger and grudges against others makes us smaller people. Our wounds have a hard time healing when we keep pouring the snake venom of resentment in them, instead of Christ’s healing balm of forgiveness. But if we can find forgiveness in our hearts, as Elder Faust said, for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. He went on to note that some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become "less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed," which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes "that forgiveness . . . is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves."
Dr. Sidney Simon:
Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.
May be all be more careful not to cause spiritual snakebites to our husbands and wives, our children, our parents, our friends and neighbors, and others. And when we do receive such snakebites – which will happen more than we like, simply because it is part of our lives as imperfect humans here on this earth – may we overcome resentment and anger and reach out in forgiveness, so that we ourselves may be forgiven of our own shortcomings. We will become better people and better friends, not just with those around us but also with our Savior. He will help us if we seek his help, and give us the strength to do what we cannot do alone.