I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness today. Yesterday I wrote about the mother of the boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure, and that whole situation sparked these thoughts about forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be such a difficult thing, and it seems to me like the hardest part of forgiveness is letting go of the desire for justice, which if we’re being honest here, is really a desire for revenge. You can still learn from something that someone has done and create new boundaries in your life as a result, but also be free of any malice towards that person.
I was in a serious relationship after high school that ended with a lot of hurt on both sides. At the time, it seemed so appropriate to be mad at him, and to carry around that anger because it felt protective. If I was mad at him, then I wasn’t feeling any loving care for him, and that would keep me from hurting. It wasn’t until several years later that I thought back on him and that relationship and realized that I felt no anger, and no malice. All I felt was a sadness at the pain that we had caused one another. I didn’t wish him any ill, only hoped that he had been able to find happiness.
That experience helped me to learn a lot about what forgiveness looks like. I saw this video about forgiveness pop up on facebook today (we’ll just assume that the universe wanted me to think about forgiveness today) and I felt like it reinforced that same idea- That you can feel nothing but love for someone who has committed grave wrongs against you. And that’s really one of the most beautiful parts of the Atonement- it takes care of justice, and relieves us of the burden of making sure that someone pays exactly what they should have for the wrongs they have committed.
I really loved this talk I found tonight by Elder Oaks, because he points out that we can use the wrongs we see or experience to teach us, or change us, or help us to create protections in our own lives. I love this line in particular, from a victim of childhood abuse who is quoted in the talk: “I will not be judged for what happened to me, but I will be judged by how I let it affect my life. I am responsible for my actions and what I do with my knowledge.”
As an extension of that, Elder Oaks points out that we can make judgements about a situation, but must refrain from making judgements about a person. I can hear a story about a boy who falls into a gorilla enclosure and decide that when I take my kids to places like the zoo, that I will be extra vigilant in keeping a close eye on them, so that I can hopefully protect them from the same type of tragic accident. I can make that situational judgement while still maintaining feelings of love and care for that boy’s parents, it is not my job to judge them.
I think Elder Oaks says it best when he says: “We can set and act upon high standards for ourselves or our homes without condemning those who do otherwise.”