Okay, after being sick for two weeks, I am coming back to life. I had to do a little studying last week while trying to get going, and I came up with some ideas I think may be interesting (and maybe not).
For starters, I got my first spiritual insight reading the New Testament long before I ever met a Mormon. I’m saying that just to say that it’s something that people have come up with this independently. In Matthew’s chapter six, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. His demonstration includes the words, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12). After he had finished that, he says, “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” (Matt 6:14-15).
Later I have learned some things about the subject of forgiveness – the one I have felt that God has bestowed upon me, and the one that I have struggled to do the same for some other people. It has been a humbling experience. Don’t get me wrong – I am not by any standard easily offended. Mostly things run down my back like water on a duck’s feathers. But there are a couple of people who have managed to do things that have hurt me or my family – whether or not they meant it is a minor part of the equation – so that I have a hard time not having hard feelings.
I have no illusions about me or any other human becoming perfect in mortality, but let’s face it, it’s one thing to intellectually know something, and to experience it for real (not that this is my only failure by a long shot!) is something else. As I said, it is humbling. That has got me thinking about our expectations in general. There is no equivocation about the standard, which is to repent – forsaking the sin – but the reality is that each one of us is far below the standard. We only hope that we are making some progress.
But the thing that really gets me is this: In Gethsemane and during the hours of torture and finally death that followed, Jesus went through something that I can not possibly imagine (he experienced the consequence of sin – see D&C 19:18-19 and 76:48) so that I have the luxury of learning by making mistakes. That realization makes me almost stop breathing or something. So I can not forgive some insignificant thing I have experienced (if you look hard enough you’ll always see how you brought it on yourself)? This has brought me to a new way of reading Moroni 7:45-48. Praying with “all the energy of heart” that I could have Charity and in a small way love like Christ loves us is not an optional thing, it is probably the very essence of the message of the Scriptures. Sure, Mosaic law was brutal by our standards – and extremely lenient by the standards of the world they lived in – but it was given to teach people gradually how to be more merciful and charitable. And what does Isaiah say about widows and orphans – or cheating your neighbor out of property, for that matter (not explicitly aimed at mr. Madoff, but he may as well be mentioned, since one day people could be calling Ponzi schemes Madoff schemes)? It is about treating our fellow humans more fairly – the blood of the oxen could do nothing if people didn’t get that part.
What about forgetting, then? “Forgive and forget” is not from the Bible, but the Lord has promised to forgive our sins and “remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). I have thought long and hard about this, and I have come to a conclusion of my own. There are two different kinds of “forgive and forget”. They are:
- Honestly just letting things ride. This is pretty hard, although it is easy enough to say. Part of this is realizing that most of the time the perceived offenses were not meant as such, and most of the rest were only meant as such in the heat of the moment.
- Forgiving inasmuch as it means to seek no vengeance or bear no grudge – but if someone has repeatedly hurt you, don’t you have the right to do something to stop the abuse? I think definitely yes!
The latter has more to do with trust. That is something that a person must earn. It is gained or lost by experience. I know that by having been on both sides. I have not always been trustworthy – and let’s face it, how much can we count on human beings? – and it is one of the best experiences to see the trust starting to form again in a loved one, whose trust you have lost. Years ago I heard someone say “It is greater to be trusted than loved”. I know the culture is such that it sounds more hip to be loved (with the glamorization of romance in Hollywood), but the Lord loves all of his children. How many of us can he trust? At least a little?
So I am deep in the woods with this or I have learned a little something from this roller-coaster ride I call my life.