"If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive." - Mother Theresa
I have learned that forgiveness does not come easily for most of us. It goes completely against our nature. We don't naturally overflow with love and forgiveness when we've been wronged. Forgiving is always a conscious choice. It is not something that just happens over time. Forgiving is something that we each have to work on in order to accomplish. Some people, find forgiving easy, but most of us will struggle with it for our entire lives.
All that being said, how do we forgive others when we don't feel like it?
We forgive first by having faith. We must trust our Heavenly Father to work within us and help make our forgiveness complete, to help develop within ourselves a desire to forgive. If your attitude is not one of humility and love, you will find yourself continually "going back" to the event and experiencing the anger, heartache, and hurt all over again.
How will we know if we have truly forgiven someone else? I have learned that we will know we have forgiven others when we experience the peace within our souls. We are the ones who suffer most when we choose not to forgive. When we do forgive, the Lord sets our hearts free from the anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that we previously had known.
I have found that when I have truly forgiven someone else, I can look back on the event and the person without angry feelings. I might not like the act, but I can be free of the emotions that come from the hurt it may have caused. I have also found contentment in turning it over to the Lord and knowing that He is infinitely better able to judge than I am. Only He knows whether or not that person has truly repented.
Forgiveness can be especially hard in cases that involve abuse or criminal behavior. It is harder because of the emotions and the pain that come with being a victim. Yet, it can be so healing. I want to make it very clear, that in these cases, you should never feel it necessary to put yourself at risk. Forgiveness does not mean that you must give the person further chances to commit those crimes. It only means that your heart is pure, that you are no longer angry, resentful, or afraid.
Each one of us, at times during our lives, feels unworthy of His love. We have each made mistakes. We each need the principle of forgiveness in our lives. I might have had different hurts, or different sins than you, but I also, have things I need to resolve in my heart.
I too, have felt the anguish and pain of loneliness, despair, and sin.
I have also felt the redeeming joy of my Savior's love.
I love the fact that forgiveness dares you to imagine a future that is not dependent on anger, hurt, fear, and retaliation. A future where you are free to love and give. A future where your own hurt, is not the final say on the matter. A future where you are sure of your Heavenly Father's love for you, no matter what mistakes you have made.
For me, when I forgive others, I realize how very much my Heavenly Father loves me.
And I am content.
When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.
- Bernard Meltzer