Have you ever been deeply hurt by someone else? Have you suffered harm or abuse at the hands of someone you once loved or trusted? Have you been betrayed by someone you once considered a friend? Have you ever had something or someone you loved taken from you by theft or death or transgression? Have you watched while someone close to you has turned from God and followed "the ways of the flesh"? Have you ever hurt so bad because of the choices of someone else that you didn't know how you could go on one more day?
If you have, you are not alone. I have suffered all of these things. It's likely you have too. Most of us have. It's the nature of this world.
All of us have someone we need to forgive. Usually, more than just someone. Maybe a whole town of people. Maybe there is someone out there that hurt you so bad when you were young that you actually hate them. You can hardly bear to think of them, let alone bear the thought of seeing them. We are so angry, we plot against them in our minds. We wish them calamity and woe and pain; we want them to eat the fruit of their own malice.
It's our human nature to feel like this. We just can't let go of the pain. It lingers, that migraine of misery. Someone owes us something, and they better pay up. God owes us for our suffering. And, by the way, where was He when all this happened? How could He let such a thing happen? It isn't fair. It isn't right. Why did He let this happen to me?
If you feel this way, take comfort that all of us have. And take comfort that you don't have to feel like this forever. In fact, you can change the way you feel about it today, even right now.
I can hear you say, "But how is that possible when I've suffered my whole life from what he did, and he hasn't done anything to change. He's never apologized or asked my forgiveness. And he's hurt so many others. I just can't let this go."
I want to help you forgive, so you can feel better right now. Today. Can I tell you a personal story about how I learned to forgive?
About 20 years ago, I was a seething pot of anger over something a close friend had done. He had broken the laws of God, betrayed his wife and children, betrayed me. His pride stunk to high heaven. I was fit to be tied.
Almost every day, I breathed out wrath and slaughter against him. I had never witnessed so closely such an act of cunning selfishness. I had left a graduate program at BYU early in an attempt to "save him." That attempt failed, decisively. (I never finished the degree and blamed him for that.)
It was an awful feeling. It was an open, oozing wound that refused to heal.
Then a miracle happened.
I was at that time working for a high tech company in Oregon. One afternoon, I took a break in the cafeteria. I had a copy of the November 1987 Ensign with me, a conference issue. I flipped it open and started reading Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk entitled "Balm of Gilead" from the October conference.
When I finished reading that article and walked out those cafeteria doors, I felt very different. My perspective had sharply changed. My wound healed on the spot. I had a smile on my face. I knew what I hadn't done, and I knew what to do.
I let it go. I completely let it go. It wasn't mine in the first place. I was clutching a package that never really belonged to me. Yes, it had affected me and hurt me deeply. But I just gave it back to the rightful Owner. That Owner was my Heavenly Father.
Forgiveness takes a great deal of faith. You have to absolutely trust God to manage the problem. You and I can't do it alone. If you think someone owes you their repentance, let the Lord collect on the debt. You can't collect on it anyway. Only He can. No one can escape His justice. Or mercy.
I no longer carried the mortgage. God took over the payments.
I still work at it every day. I have to remind myself to forgive and not blame. Nearly every day, I say in my prayers, "Heavenly Father, I completely forgive everyone who I ever have imagined hurt me." I refuse to worry about anyone else's sins. Mine are enough.
When you forgive, you are more free to love, free to see clearly, free to let the past just be whatever it was without reigning over you today, free to feel peace like a river (Isaiah 48:18).
Don't waste another day holding back your forgiveness. Send that package of anger and revenge and bitterness away. Send it first class to your Heavenly Father. Let Him take over for you. Only He can.