Monday, February 9, 2009

Forgiveness

(I'm feel lazy, so I'm going to use some old material. This is a talk given in Sacrament meeting in the San Marcos Ward, Escondido CA South Stake on June 8, 2008).

I would like to thank our previous speakers and I would like to add to Sis. Shields message of the Atonement. We most often think of the Atonement in how it benefits us personally, but rarely do we think about the benefit of the Atonement in the lives of others.

The message I am sharing is related to this. It was an answer to my personal prayers while asking help in resolving my troubled mind. I’ve know since then that I should talk on this subject. As I searched for additional material for this talk, I came across a sermon. I liked some of the material and felt obliged to ask for permission. I sent an email and just got this response a few days ago:


Hi Ron,

My attitude is "Freely you have received, so freely give."

Glad you enjoyed it. It's a huge topic and very relevant. I would
think everyone is carrying around offences of some sort or another.

Regards,

Mark Forsyth.


Mark is a pastor of a Methodist Church in Ireland.


I also found out about a Forgiveness Project at Stanford University. Stanford University is the home of likely the largest intervention study to date on the training of interpersonal forgiveness. Here is a statement from their website:


“FOR CENTURIES THE WORLD'S RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS HAVE RECOMMENDED THE USE OF FORGIVENESS AS A BALM FOR HURT OR ANGRY FEELINGS”

“While the scientific study of forgiveness is just beginning… the work so far demonstrates the power of forgiveness to heal emotional wounds and hints that forgiveness may play a role in physical healing as well.

What is intriguing about this research is that even people who are not depressed or particularly anxious can obtain the improved emotional and psychological functioning that comes from learning to forgive. This suggests that forgiveness may enable people who are functioning adequately to feel even better. While the research is limited, a picture is emerging that forgiveness may be important not just as a religious practice but as a component of a comprehensive vision of health.”

The message of forgiveness is a universal message that applies to any culture, religion, people. It applies anywhere in the world.

I would to remind you of two stories from Jesus’ ministry.


First (John 8: 3-11), the story of the adulteress, brought before Jesus. She was accused and the people were demanding that she be stoned to death, as the law demanded it.


The second story (Luke 15:11-32) is the wayward son:

“A certain man had two sons:” The younger son asked his father for his share of property. He left “into a far country, and there awasted his bsubstance with criotous living.” He then fell on hard times, saw the error of his ways and returned home.

“when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had acompassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more aworthy to be called thy bson.

22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

When the elder son, heard this, he was angry and complained to his father

“Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.


I would like to focus attention on the people in these stories that were demanding justice. They saw an offence committed and passionately argued for justice. There is something in our human nature that demands justice. The surprising fact in these stories is that the offenses weren’t against the people demanding justice. How much more conviction do we feel in demanding justice when the offence is actually committed against us.


What is an offence? One definition is:


“An ongoing resentment against some person or persons due to some real or supposed grievance.”


The grievance caused physical and or emotional pain. We weren’t treated fairly or rewarded appropriately. You weren’t appreciated or even worse, someone else got credit for what we did. We were neglected, betrayed, manipulated, ridiculed, criticized; the list goes on.


The person or person could be any of the following:

Father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother or sister in law, nephew, niece, grandparent, grandchild.

A Bishop, Relief Society or Elders Quorum’s President, Young Men or Young Women Leader, Home or Visiting Teacher, or another member of the Church.

A boss, coworker, employee, or the company you work for.

Neighbor, teacher from school, principal, cafeteria worker, police officer. A stranger in a store, parking lot or while driving.

A friend, boy friend, girl friend, acquaintance of your own or someone you know.


Resentment is deep emotional anger.

We may carry resentment for years. Some of the signs of resentment:

-Comforting ourselves with the sure conviction that we were right

-We feel we were entitled to behave in the way that we did and we’ve nothing to apologize for or repent of.

-We talk about the incident to anyone who’ll listen, seeking support for your side of the argument.

-you go beyond the actual incident and start talking about the other person in general. You denigrate their character.

-You bring up any run-ins from the past.

-You delight in rumours about what the person who offended you has done to others.

- You keep thinking about the offence, tossing it around in your head.

-You have imaginary conversations with the person who offended you.

- You imagine yourself in court, defending yourself in front of an imaginary judge.

-You think up clever arguments in order to prove your case until you are absolutely convinced that you are right and they are the guilty one.


-You convince yourself that they are the one guilty, should apologize, and/or they should be exposed or punished.


The fact that none of these outcomes has happened just makes you more frustrated and the cycle continues again. As long as you keep processing the dispute in your imagination, and put off dealing with it in reality, then the mental anguish goes on. By the time you’ve piled on a few more offences with the same person and a few new offences with others, you can end up in an awful state. Now, your brain knows that you have to get on with life, so your mind forces these offences to one side, but they’re still there, in some compartment of your mind, and when you get a quiet moment to yourself, you’ll bring them up again.



How do we get past these feelings?


My sister told me a story of a missionary couple in a foreign land. They were frustrated with this culture because the people were always late. They explained their frustration to a visiting church leader and he responded: “It’s always difficult to deal with people who sin differently than we do”.


If we go back to the story of the adulterous. Jesus gave a surprising response:

“He that is without asin among you, let him bfirst cast a cstone at her.” One by one they left. When Jesus was alone with the woman, he said:

Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?”

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I acondemn thee: go, and sin bno more.


And the story of the wayward son, the Father’s response to his eldest son:

31 And he said unto him, aSon, thou art ever with me, and ball that I have is thine.

32 It was ameet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.


Those in those stories who had a right to be offended yet gave forgiveness. Let’s forget the past and start anew.


It’s especially hard to forgive when we are in an inescapable relationship. If we have been offended by a neighbor, we don’t want to have to move. We can’t change who our relatives are. Our only choice is to repair our damaged relationship. But we are afraid or unwilling to forgive when we are at risk of continued offence. But the truth is, there is little hope of repairing a relationship if we hold onto the resentment. By forgiving, we free up the energy lost to resentment. This energy we can use productively to help us. We are able to express to the other person in a healthy manner our feelings and pave a path to a restored relationship.


I would like each of you to try an experiment. Think of someone who has offended you. Picture them in your mind. Now say in your mind, whether you mean it or not, “I forgive you”. It’s best that you mean it. Now image the Atonement at work, washing away their sins. Feel the burden of resentment lift from your shoulders as you truly start to feel forgiveness towards this person.


The offences that troubled me were all related to my work. I thought in my mind, “I forgive Gina” and felt a peace. Then the unhealthy patterns of resentment returned, but this time it was Mark. I thought, “I forgive Mark”. Then it was Cynthia, and John, and Bob. I was surprised at how much resentment I was harboring. I’m still working on freeing myself of this resentment.


Remember the message from Christ:


Matthew 7: 1 aJudge not, that ye be not bjudged.

2 For with what ajudgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what bmeasure ye mete, it shall be cmeasured to you again.

3 aAnd why beholdest thou the bmote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the cbeam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou ahypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.


It’s surprising that scientists at Stanford are barely discovering what Jesus taught us almost 2000 years ago: The power of forgiveness. In a recent talk, Pres. Hinkley shared this story:

A time back, I clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen. With his permission, I quote from a part of it. Wrote he:

“How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal—and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?

“And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? …

“This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime.

“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.

“Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault—the charge most fitting for the crime—he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

“According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’

“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears” (“Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future,” Deseret Morning News, Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).

I share this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen



Extra Material:

Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, provided this definition of forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”5

Luke 7: 37 And, behold, a awoman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster bbox of ointment,

38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and aanointed them with the ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are aforgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.






Peter asked Christ about forgiveness.


Matthew 18:21 ¶ Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I aforgive him? till seven times?

22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until aseventy times seven.


Matthew 6:9

14 For if ye aforgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye aforgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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2 comments:

Shelly said...

I'm glad you have a place to write. I enjoyed your writings on forgiveness. It is a great healer.
Love the new blog the family has. Love the photos of Kristy at the beach in her wedding dress.

SINVILLE said...

forgiveness is overrated