Typically on the first Sunday of each month a presidency member teaches the lesson. This past month I had the opportunity to teach and the topic was “Why do I need to forgive others?”
First – I gave everyone a pen and a piece of paper with these three questions:
- Why do we need to forgive everyone, including ourselves?
- Why is the Lord the only person who can decide whether or not a person should be forgiven?
- Why is failure to forgive such a great sin?
For this one, I delved deep down into the dark abyss that is my educational experience. I was not immune to bullies so I shared with the girls my story of the bus and the bully (note: I shared the story from memory, so what is written is the more dramatic, thought out version of my experience).
When I was in sixth grade I had to ride the bus to school. In the mornings, when the bus picks you up one stop at a time, you don’t have much choice where to sit when you are one of the last stops. Because of this, I had no other choice but to travel to the back of the bus. Now for some of you, the back is where the cool kids sat and maybe you sat there because you were a cool kid. For kids like me, the back is the seventh circle of hell. I was a quiet kid, so I took the first seat available. There was an eight grader on the bus, short, blond, cheerleader. Her name was Erin. Erin and I didn’t know each other but that morning, and every morning for the entire school year, Erin gave me a hard time. She would say mean things or ask embarrassing questions – if you’ve been bullied you know the feeling. She made every morning miserable, to the point where I would try to miss the bus so that my sister would have to take me to school.
So here’s my question. Do I have to forgive Erin?
Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10 reads:
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgiveone another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
To answer question 1 on the piece of paper – it is required that we forgive all men.
To answer question 2 – things might get a little sticky in my explanation. I asked the girls, what do we know about Christ and what he did for us? Luckily the answer, “he died for our sins” came pretty quickly because he did a lot for us, but this is the one I wanted to zero in on. So Christ took upon Him our sins. Only our sins? To which one sweet little twelve year old said, “All our sins.” All. Everyone. Not just those in the room, not just those that attend church, or those that even want Him to take their sins, but EVERYONE. I drew on the board.
I drew Christ bigger because He’s the most important part of this. So Christ took on MY sins. (see diagram below)
But He also took on Erin’s:
I won’t pretend that I am perfect, I have been mean to people, I have even made grown men cry before. But Christ took those mistakes and sins and that cruelty I showed to someone else, he took all of those upon himself. To which I am grateful – but he also did the exact same for Erin.
So this is why He is the one who decides. I have to forgive Erin, even though she never asked for or likely wanted, my forgiveness, because Christ has paid for what she has done. If she wants forgiveness, she goes to Christ, because he has taken on her debt and he knows the thoughts and intents of her heart, whereas I just saw her as an evil cheerleader out to ruin my life.
For Question 3 we build on what we’ve been talking about. In the book, The Peacegiver by James Ferrell, he explains pretty well why we must forgive everyone. In the book we read:
The Lord, by taking the sins of (those who hurt us) upon his head, extends us the same mercy. ‘Upon me let this iniquity be,’ he pleads, ‘Let me deal with it if there is any dealing to be done. But YOU, my dear daughter, let it go. Let me take it, as I already have done. Forgive.
So by taking on the sins of others, Christ owns up to that sin as though it were his (which we know he was perfect, therefore sinless so this is big). He then comes to us and asks us to forgive HIM! He asks ME to forgive Him for what Erin did, just as he asks others to forgive Him for what I did.
Then it goes further in the book by saying:
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.
That is why it is the greater sin because to fail to forgive is to not forgive Christ.
Forgiveness is easier said than done. So what are some things we can do to recieve the Lord’s help to forgive others (and ourselves)?
- Read Scriptures
- Get a blessing
Do you think it’s important to PREPARE to forgive? If so, how can we do this?
The girls had a lot of the same answers but overall we discussed that one of the best ways is to study the life of Christ and to work on our relationship with Him. Because as you grow closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ you will begin to take on their attributes. You will begin to see others as they see them.
President Uchtdorf said:
The more we allow the Love of God to govern our minds and emotions – the more we allow our love for Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts- the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade. As always, Christ is our exemplar. In His teachings as in His life, He showed us the way. He forgave the wicked, the vulgar, and those who sought to hurt and to do Him harm.
To end, I shared this video from the youth website at LDS.org. I asked the girls to pay attention to how this man was able to forgive.
Last month, the teacher gave each girl an index card and had them write what they know about Christ and who He is to them. Then the girls were given the rest of the time to bear testimonies, however, they were only allowed to say what they had written on the card. It was a great spiritual experience, and I reminded the girls of this at the end of this video. Many of the girls got up there and said that Christ was their brother who knows exactly how they feel. I agreed. He knows exactly how they feel whether it’s joy or hurt or pain. And if they struggle to forgive someone, they should take it to Him. They should pray for the strength to do it, and I have a testimony that the Lord will come to your aid if it is truly the desire of your heart to forgive (because I also have a testimony that to pray without intent yields exactly what you want – to keep holding on to it). He has done it for me many times and I will never forget the strength he lent me.
Note: At some point in the lesson I remember stressing to the girls that sometimes there are very serious things you must forgive and one thing I have learned is that forgiving does not always equal trusting. In cases of abuse or serious harm, they need to forgive, but they DO NOT need to allow that person to harm them again.