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The Miracle of Forgiveness

This is a guest post by Jill, who by posting here is fulfilling one of her mother’s dreams for her– that of being a writer. Although insistent that she didn’t listen to her mom about writing, she is the writer who blogs at Sweet Happy Life and the stay-at-home mom (“to my three lovies”) that is never home because she’s always in the car, running around. When not blogging or carpooling, she loves to read, cook and laugh.

 

Not long after my youngest son was born, I developed a plantars wart on the ball of my foot. My dermatologist quickly referred me to a podiatrist for treatment sensing that the wart was expansive and deep. Indeed it was.

I knew I was in trouble when the podiatrist, a very soft spoken, gentle man, looked up at me over his glasses and kindly explained that the wart was buried beneath the skin, thriving on the blood vessels and actively destroying healthy tissue. “It may not look bad at first glance,” he calmly stated, “but just below the surface are many branches of the virus quickly spreading.”

 

 

We treated the wart quickly and aggressively by burning out the offending tissue with a laser. I simply cannot describe the pain. Having just recovered from a C-section, I truly didn’t understand how such a silly little wart could cause so much discomfort compared to my recent surgery. The laser left a hole in the bottom of my foot which was a half inch wide and a half inch deep. Unfortunately it was located right on the weight bearing ball of my foot, therefore any time I put any pressure on the wound, the pain would intensify. Never before had I realized the sheer amount of nerve endings located on the bottom of the foot.

 

To make matters worse, in order for the treatment to be most effective, the wound needed to heal from the inside out. Weekly I would make the trip to the doctor where he would clean the wound and open it up, ensuring that the virus did not again enter the blood supply.

 

My recovery was slow and very painful. Such a small thing, but oh how it tested my patience. It tested my resolve, my strength and my humility.

 

I have often thought about this wart as I have struggled with another wound. This wound is of the heart. When someone that you love betrays you, the pain is tangible; deep and excruciating. This hurt has left a hole in my heart rather than my foot, but like the wart, it has many branches which feed aggressively from the blood supply I give it.

 

And while I did not choose this sorrow, just as I did not choose the wart causing virus, it is up to me to seek treatment to heal my weary soul.

 

Oft times I wish there were a laser beam to cut away the grief in one fell swoop, but matters of the heart are usually more complex, therefore treatment is more delicate, more time-consuming, more complicated.

 

Yet I have found a salve which seems to lessen the pain if I use it regularly. It is called forgiveness. I have found that I cannot use this balm just once and expect my wounds to heal. Rather, I have to choose to use forgiveness over and over again.

 

In Doctrine and Covenants 64:10 the Lord says ‘I the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.’ Admittedly, it isn’t easy to forgive those who have hurt us and I struggle with my pride in not wanting to just let it go. I have found that my unwillingness to forgive at times has caused my hurt to increase, the virus to spread, so to speak, to other areas of my heart and mind.

 

In his book, The Peacegiver, James L. Ferrell teaches us that being forgiving is simply enjoying the full blessing of the atonement. Ferrell states “The Lord, by taking the sins of others upon his head, extends us the same mercy. ‘Upon me let this inequity be’ he pleads. ‘Let me deal with it if there is any dealing to be done. But you, my dear son or daughter, let it go. Let me take it, as I already have done. Forgive.’”

 

Ferrell goes on to explain that while the Savior is perfect and needs no forgiveness, He has also taught us that ‘inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me’.

 

When we withhold forgiveness from others, we are in effect saying that the atonement alone was insufficient to pay for this sin. We are holding out for more. We are finding fault with the Lord’s offering. We are in essence demanding that the Lord repent of an insufficient atonement. So when we fail to forgive another, it is as if we are failing to forgive the Lord.”

 

I try to remember this in my moments of anguish, realizing that just as the Lord has atoned for my sins, he has also atoned for and claimed the sins of those who have hurt me. He has provided me with the perfect prescription to hasten my healing. For I also realize that the blessings of the atonement are sure and beautiful and as Ferrell concludes “if we grant forgiveness in full, He atones in full for the pain and burdens that have come at others’ hands. He blesses us with His own love, His own appreciation, His own companionship, His own strength to endure.”

When my own burden seems too heavy to bear, I call on the healing powers of the Savior and at once I feel the wounds begin to close, the cells begin to regenerate, the miracle that is forgiveness.

18 thoughts on “The Miracle of Forgiveness”

  1. This is very good, Jill. Re: your wart removal, OUCH. I love the analogy to forgiveness.

    I have heard good things about The Peacegiver–thanks for including his ideas. I hadn't quite thought of it that way.

    I know there are times when it is harder for me to forgive . . . when there's a bruised ego involved, for example. I also know how much happier and whole I feel when I am a forgiving person.

    Thanks for your well-expressed thoughts!

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  2. I knew there was a reason I like you! You're wonderful. What a depth of reserve you have…considering all. Thanks for your great words-and being willing to share them.

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  3. Thanks for this, Jill. It is very vivid, real, and touching.

    In response to why it is so difficult to let the Atonement heal our hearts…for me, at times it is difficult because I don't want to be vulnerable. Forgiving requires relinquishing my grasp over my painful situation and opens me up to unknown things–and that scares me. "Want" is not even the right word. It's more than me not wanting to vulnerable, it's that I feel like I literally don't have it in me to do it.

    But the reality is that I do, we all do. Letting go provides strength, even though that is what I feel I am going to lose, before I try it.

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  4. Remembering that forgiveness is something we need to do all the time is so key! I wish I could just go through the "pain" of forgiving others just once, but I am learning as Jill is, that some acts of forgiveness take more daily effort. Thanks for reminding me how important forgiveness is in my life!

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  5. Forgiveness is something that is in the forefront of my mind right how. I've had some really difficult situations with members of my immediate family that have been extremely hurtful. There is blame on both sides, and I pray every day to forgive them with an open heart. What I struggle with is how do I go back to a relationship with family members after I have been so deeply hurt? I need so badly for the atonement to heal the gaping wound in my heart. (I had a plantar wart removed as well, and so the analogy is very apt for me.) I want to forgive and let go, yet I don't trust the people in my family who have hurt me. Does true forgiveness mean returning to a hurtful relationship? Or, can I forgive them and pray for the atonement to heal me and remain distanced from them? I do know that answers come after many days of soul searching, so I'm hoping that someday I'll be able to come to my own peace with this.

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  6. Xena, I think you're right about the many days of soul searching being how to find your peace. Depending on the nature of the hurt, and your family's attitudes, you may not be able to fully mend things. It IS possible to completely forgive, even if that forgiveness means keeping new, more distant boundaries. Sometimes trust can be mended with time, but other times the offending party may not be worthy of your trust. Best wishes. It is no easy process.

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  7. Wendy, thanks for your comment. I struggle with this daily, trying to figure out the "right way" to handle things. I second-guess myself a lot, so I appreciate your words.

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  8. Xena: Yesterday, I posted a talk by Cheiko Okazaki over at ExII. While the topic is "healing from sexual abuse," her discussion of forgiving when the hurt runs impossibily deep is generally applicable. It's one of the most powerful talks I've ever heard. Here's the link.

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  9. Thank you for so many wonderful comments. So many of your thoughts are my thoughts as well.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Kristen in that forgiveness means being vulnerable and possibly setting ourselves up for more hurt…that is why it is difficult. The key for me is to begin again each day. Believe it or not forgiveness is in fact very powerful, because it is a choice. Rather than continuing to be a victim, we can choose the gift that is forgiveness…very empowering.

    Xena, your words resonated with me as well. My hurt is a family hurt as well, and it is difficult to regain trust. I have also found that I have to forgive the same people over and over again as the hurt continues, albeit in different ways. For me, the trust is NOT there, but I do have the ability to continue to love, and sometimes that is enough.

    I think it's okay to take some time and even some distance to heal your heart. The key is to do so not out of bitterness and anger. I have often taken a time out from my situation as a means of protecting myself. Often it is during those moments of peace and solitude that I gain perspective and am able to once again move forward with a forgiving heart.

    Hang in there.

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  10. I read "The Peacegiver" not too long before a family gathering. I genuinely feel that it helped me enjoy my visit, and protect myself from further hurt by forgiving the offender as it happened… Xena, you can forgive AND be distant. Sometimes it's neccesary to protect your heart, and children in my case.

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  11. For those experiencing family hurt and struggling ot figure out how much to engage, the book Boundaries (by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) was a blessing for me. Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. Yes, sometimes we can get hurt again, but sometimes there are things we can — and sometimes should — do to avoid unhealthy situations, patterns and relationships. Boundaries are less than ideal, but in our fallen world, sometimes they can help.

    The book also deals with forgiveness. It's a Christian book, very well done in my mind.

    The Peacegiver was also one that I loved. I was especially moved by the idea that if someone's best is enough for the Lord, I cannot demand any more.

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  12. I was thinking about this thread during the sacrament today, recognizing I needed to forgive a stranger (and unexpected visitor at church) who was snippy with me last week. I found myself grumbling inside when I saw her. I don't think I would've recognized my attitude so clearly had this not been on my mind. Thanks again for the subject and discussion.

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  13. Clever , engaging and inspiring. Festering wounds on our physical bodies receive a lot of attention from professional healers, ourselves and those who support us as we are healing. Often you'll hear… how is your arm or whatever healing? Frequent inquiries of the heart are not as common place. How often do you hear "How is your forgiveness of ( you fill in the blank) healin? Jill's thought provoking comparison continues to inspire me to probe my emotions, view them a new from the insidious elements that are destructive an to allow the atoning sacrifice of our Saviour to wokr in my life. In short, I am grateful for this guests contribution and for segullah's existance.

    Pamela Bingham

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