A prominent religious theme, forgiveness is both a commandment and a blessing mentioned frequently throughout scripture. God requires all people to forgive others of wrongdoing. In return, God promises that He will forgive us and bring peace and relief from our sins as long as we repent.
Chances are, there’s been a time—or maybe several times—that you’ve felt wronged by someone. It hurts, but it’s important not to let bitterness and anger take root and grow. Jesus Christ taught us how to forgive others when He said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi provided an example of a forgiving heart when he “did frankly forgive” his brothers after they attempted to hurt him (see 1 Nephi 7:16-21). Though you may initially struggle to forgive someone who has offended or harmed you, there are many reasons to “let it go” and free yourself from the burden that comes from an unwillingness to forgive.
When you hold a grudge against someone, regardless of the reasons behind the grudge, your unwillingness to forgive may foster in you a sense of bitterness that can grow over time into anger or even violence. Your grudge can be compared to a snakebite—if you are bitten by a snake and spend the next moments seeking revenge, you are more likely to allow the poison to become fatal than you are if you forget about the snake and immediately seek medical attention.
Letting go of grudges and deciding to forgive can be therapeutic as well as spiritually rewarding. You can never find healing for yourself as long as you refuse to forgive others. When you forgive, you will be rewarded with a feeling of peace.
The Lord has commanded you to forgive others. He has also promised that you can receive forgiveness for your own sins if you repent and forgive others. Jesus taught, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).
We have been commanded to be like Christ. In the Book of Mormon, Christ taught, “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). Christ was the greatest example of forgiveness. Even as He hung on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Other people aren’t the only ones you need to forgive. Sometimes you have to forgive yourself for things you have done as well. Instead of giving in to guilt and self-loathing, learn to accept yourself and the fact that you are imperfect, and move past your mistakes.
It’s not always easy to make substantial changes. However, with patience and faith in God, you can change your life for the better in a lasting way.
When you make mistakes, take the opportunity to learn from them. Determine what you did wrong and where you can do better in the future.
You should resolve to not repeat your mistakes, but be understanding with yourself when you falter in your struggle toward perfection. Jesus commanded us to be perfect, saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). However, He doesn’t expect you to become perfect all at once or without His help. As you “come unto Christ, and [are] perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32), you can become a better person through His divine aid.
Because all of us will make mistakes throughout our lives, we need to continually seek forgiveness from the Lord for our sins. Sin is a heavy burden (see Psalm 38:4), so each of us must be forgiven of our sins if we hope to have lasting peace in this life. We also have to be cleansed from sin in order to be able to live with God again. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can all be forgiven. This process of seeking and receiving forgiveness from God is called repentance. There is no limit to the number of times you can repent, as long as you do so with a sincere heart. The Lord said, “Yea, and as often as my people repent I will forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30).
Forgiving others and forgiving yourself will help you find peace in your life. You don’t need to carry around the heavy spiritual burdens that come from refusing to forgive.
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