When you feel you have completely forgiven an offender—
Test your Forgiveness
- How do you feel when you see or think about a person, living or dead, who has mistreated you? Do you see them in a new way? Do you feel peaceful, or are you preoccupied with feelings of bitterness, resentment, anger, and revenge? A truly charitable person will have a heart full of love for all others, and express it in words and actions. Enright’s definition of forgiveness is:
“a willingness to abandon one’s resentment, condemnation, and subtle revenge toward an offender who acts unjustly, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and even love toward him or her.”
- If you suddenly realized one who offended you was in the same room, would you feel comfortable speaking to him, or would you ignore him and pretend you didn’t see him? One of the worst things you can do to another person is to treat them with indifference.
- Are you easily offended, or can you remain quiet and resist the impulse to become offended? When offended, can you remember to ask yourself, “Where is the lesson in this? Which virtue is being tested today?” When a person refuses to be offended, or forgives quickly, the conflict is avoided or resolved and peace is maintained or restored.
“Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended.” (Matthew 11:6)
- Have you spoken to, or written a letter to, someone who has offended you, and said the words, “I’m sorry….” for holding hard feelings toward them?
- Can you extend forgiveness and mercy to those who have offended you—in the same way you desire the Lord to extend mercy to you for the times your behavior has offended others?
- How do you remember past offenses? Painful memories cannot be completely erased; but, dwelling on the details and negative thoughts of an offense will often resurrect feelings of anger. Work to remember past offenses in a new way, without any bitterness, and as a learning experience.
- Could you willingly serve one who has offended you? When we give from the heart, we feel more love, charity, peace, and good will toward men. To return good for evil is the highest expression of Christian love.
- Is your daily conversation positive, uplifting, and accepting of others; or is it negative and critical?
- Do you look for those who are lonely and suffering, even if they have mistreated you, and extend your hand in friendship and service to others, including those who have been unkind to you?
- How do you feel about your own self-worth? Have you repented and forgiven yourself of your own sins and past mistakes? Do you ponder your divine nature as a child of a God—your Father in heaven? Do you see others as children of God?
- Do you trust God to support and help you in your effort to forgive others? Do you believe he also loves and desires to help those who have offended you?
- Do you care about the temporal and spiritual welfare of others as much as you care about your own? Do the needs of others matter to you as much as your own? Do you enjoy the successes of others as much as your own? Oprah Winfrey said, “Loving another person is when the other person’s happiness is essential to your own.” (April 2003)
If you find you need to work further on the challenge to forgive, turn to the scriptures where we find the answers to all of our problems. Continue to prayerfully study and ponder the life and teachings of Christ, and pay attention to the thoughts which enter your mind.
Becoming Christ-like and acquiring the greatest attribute charity, which includes forgiving others, is a lifetime pursuit, and very often involves growth and change that is slow and almost imperceptible. Be patient, and don’t become discouraged or give up on forgiveness.
Each day will bring new challenges and opportunities to forgive. Forgiveness is not always an easy process. The deeper the hurt, the longer it may take to completely forgive. All that is required is to invite the Lord to help, do our best, and keep trying. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like him.
Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in. Those who extend Christ-like love, mercy and forgiveness to others will receive greater peace in this life, and eternal life with God in the world to come.
May we learn to love, forgive, and live like Christ,
so we may one day live with Christ.