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One of the “bottom-Lines” and guarantees of this life is that we will have injustices, betrayals or abuse that can derail our spiritual progress if we let it. Some of us have more of it than others, but the fact is, it is part of the human test. What are we going to do about it? What we do makes all the difference!
Forced to Face Forgiveness
The other day, a good friend (I’ll call her Kim) confided in me an excruciating situation that she has had to deal with for the last couple of years. She had a son who had betrayed her and all the family stood for. A few months ago, this son and his wife needed help, and asked if they could live with her for a while. She agreed. When I asked Kim about how she was handling that situation, she simply said, “The ONLY thing I’m focusing on this year is forgiveness!” She said that this opportunity has given her the chance to forgive grievances because she was literally forced to face them every day. It gave her the practical, daily opportunity she needed to forgive. She is now in a good place with her son, and The Lord helped her do it.
When I was 12 or 13 years old, I had a difficult experience that later translated into great awareness. I was sexually harassed by a friend’s older brother. I was forced to be in a very powerless situation and was abused. Because of it, I felt absolutely enraged when I would think of that day, and that person. I distinctly remember telling someone when I was around 18: “I love everyone, except one. The only person I don’t love is ___, and I HATE him!” I harbored wrath and ill will for many years because I hadn’t addressed it and let it go.
The next few years in college, I began to change. I remember specifically asking the Lord to forgive me for all my bad feelings, and to help me lose the power of the feelings. My focus began to shift…
Fast forward 13 or 14 years. One night soon after giving birth to one of my sons, I was considering names for him. I had a list of names that my husband and I had made, and I was narrowing them down. Suddenly, I felt the strong prompting that this new son wanted his name in mortality to be ___ (the same name as the abuser!) I was shocked that this was the name my future son wanted, because I never would have considered it on my own. At that moment, I had a sudden flash of insight, and was ABSOLUTELY STRUCK that there was no longer even a hint of bad feeling against my abuser or his name! I then realized that I had completely forgiven him, and as I understood this spiritual conquest, I joyfully consented to name my precious son this name.
To me, this experience was a personal visual aid for the power of the Atonement to help me forgive. I saw what the Lord could do, because He did it for me.
Hugh Nibley taught a great truth:
“Salvation depends on the only TWO things that human beings can do well; and for the blessed opportunity of exercising those peculiar talents they are envied by the angels… Those two things are 1) to REPENT, and 2) to FORGIVE.”
At a funeral of his friend, Hugh continues this theme:
“Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing.” (Boyd J. Peterson, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, P. 128)
How to Face Injustice and Overcome Bad Feelings
God wants us to overcome negative feelings that come from difficult life situations. The following are suggestions that can help:
1. Notice what you’re feeling. Pinpoint the emotions
Before we can change our negative feelings, we have to be aware of them. What are you feeling? (Anger, shame, fear, powerlessness etc.)
Each time we think back to a bad situation, it coats us with the memory and the injustice of it all, and we descend down to the emotion of that experience again. We can’t rise from bad feelings until our focus becomes elevated.
2. Pray with ALL Your Heart to Forgive and be Forgiven
Open up to forgiveness. Ask for it. This is why Christ died. We DON’T have to suffer about past abuse. As soon as we’re ready, we can move forward and upward.
We need to realize that forgiving someone for bad behavior doesn’t mean that we’re condoning what he or she has done. Each child of God will ultimately have to answer to the Lord for his own actions.
Pray For Your Abuser. Something happens to our souls when we can open up enough to pray for those who “despitefully use and persecute” us (Matt: 5 44)
Do you think that the Savior has let his feelings of betrayal, beatings and crucifixion go? He would have every right if He didn’t, but he prayed for those individuals who abused Him and even gave His life for them, knowing full well what they did. Are we greater then He? (D & C 122:8)
3. Stop Repeatedly Discussing It With Others
The more we talk about it, in a “poor me” context, the more we relive the event over and over, and the chemicals in our body refresh the dark feelings. It’s important to get our story out initially by writing it down, speaking to professionals, or telling it to someone in confidence, but many retellings of the injustice, with the need for validation after each telling, just mires us in the sludge. Oddly enough, we often choose validation from peers rather than validation from the Lord.
4. Try to Understand Your Abuser
When Christ was on the cross, he said, “Father Forgive them, because they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Often abusers act on impulse, and aren’t truly aware of the consequences of their actions. It’s common that they themselves have been abused or are just spiritually immature. In ALL cases, they’re influenced and often overcome by darkness, and not living their truth. This view can give us compassion for them.
I like what C. S. Lewis wrote:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” (C. S. Lewis, “Essays on Forgiveness,” 1960)
5. Focus on LIGHT
No one has EVER thrived while employing destructive, dark emotions. It’s not how we were designed. We’re created to flourish in light, not in darkness. We have to rise above our circumstances, and that can only happen when we focus on things that are higher than our darkness. (Asking the Lord to help us; Scripture; Music; Nature and Radical Gratitude, etc). Let’s be conscious about filling up with light, and facing Up instead of facing down.
President Kimball wrote: “We read in the papers and hear on TV constantly that the world “is in an awful mess.” Not true! The world is still most beautiful. It is man who is off center. The sun still illumines the day and gives light and life to all things; the moon still brightens the night; oceans still feed the world and provide transportation; rivers still drain the land, and provide irrigation water to nourish crops. Even the ravages of time have not sloughed off the majesty of the mountains. Flowers still bloom and birds still sing, and children still laugh and play.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969)
We lately hear of many people who have been unjustly and cruelly treated. We can sympathize, and even empathize, but when we DWELL on these outrageous or salacious accounts, we can actually lower our own spiritual resonance. We need to be careful that we don’t roll around in other people’s mud!
Our Privilege to Help Others and Ourselves
The best and most noble thing we can do for people in emotional pain is to pray for them, and then listen carefully for anything we are spiritually directed to do. Our objective must always be to lift them, and not to let their plight sully us. We can only have this privilege to truly help others if we are on firmer and higher ground.
God always lets us choose our altitude and direction. Which direction do we want to face today? Let’s see what the Lord can do when we focus on Him. It will make all the difference.
You can CONTACT Anne at [email protected].