Recently I had a conversation with my 11 year old daughter, who is struggling to forgive some girls who have repeatedly hurt her feelings and done things that have caused her to feel left out. Minor things…perhaps to those of us who have emerged from adolescence and can see the bigger picture. But, to her, this is a BIG deal. Some days, she has a difficult time rising above the “they need a taste of their own medicine” mentality.
I talked to her about giving the offenders, who, in all likelihood, didn’t set out with malicious intent, the benefit of the doubt. I talked to her about how holding grudges makes it difficult to move on or to feel peace, and how forgiveness was necessary, no matter what the offense. I talked to her about living the golden rule, and what that would look like in her situation. But, as the conversation progressed, I could see that I wasn’t getting anywhere. These concepts seemed too difficult to imagine, let alone practice, when she was feeling hurt. The conversation went downhill in a hurry, and both of us ended up frustrated – not seeing eye to eye at all.
I have thought about that conversation a lot since then. I was frustrated with her because she could obviously not understand the importance of forgiveness. But, I realized that I have been where she is now. I was there in my early teens when my “best” friend betrayed my trust in a big way, knocking the wind out of me for a good year. I was there when I spent that year trying to find forgiveness, and not really being able to grasp it. I was there when, several years later, a man whom we knew quite well threatened to do everything in his power to see that my husband’s business failed. I was there when I had to come to grips with running into this man often, knowing that he was working to destroy our dreams of success (which never happened, by the way).
Yes, I have been there. Haven’t we all? And, I have learned a few things. The forgiveness that has been asked of me may be minor compared to what has been asked of others. But, no matter what the offense, it is a HARD thing to do – perhaps one of the most difficult things that the Lord asks of us. I have held grudges for WAY too long in the past, and have come to understand that doing so led to the darkest periods in my life. I was not able to find peace or hope until I was able to “Let it Go,” whether or not the offender ever apologized. I have learned that holding onto bad feelings only hurts me. I have learned that the way to truly forgive and find peace is through the Savior. He felt all of MY pain, so he is capable of helping me through those things that I simply cannot do alone. If I am able to leave the offender to him, and trust that everything will somehow be made right in the end, I am better able to move on. I have also learned that this process takes time. It surely doesn’t happen overnight.
As much as I want my daughter to understand all of the things that I have learned through difficult experience, my frustration with her for not “getting it” when she is hurting is out of line of my part. I have realized that I need to give her time. I need to give her love, encouragement and support. I need to be better about listening to her without always feeling like I need to offer suggestions on how to “fix” the situation. I need to tell her about the things that I have learned, but have patience with her as she figures them out on her own. I think this is something that she will have to learn through experience.
But, in the mean time, I sure love this quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
“We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?” (You can read the rest of his amazing talk here.)
The sheer difficulty of forgiveness, especially when the offense is great, is what inspires and amazes me about these two people:
Ashlee Birk’s world was turned upside down when her husband was murdered by the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair. She was previously unaware of the affair, and found out about it shortly after learning of his death. She had five small children at the time, the youngest of whom was just six weeks old. You can read her inspiring story of healing and forgiveness on her blog here.
I am humbled by these amazing stories. If they can do it, I can do it. And, I plan to share their inspiring stories with my kids. Perhaps then they will be able to see a part of the bigger picture. Perhaps then they will better understand the forgiveness paves the way for better days ahead.
But, don’t take it from me.
Check out Ashlee’s blog – and decide for yourself.