One of the titles that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, carries is the Prince of Peace. It is through him that we find peace, and one of the ways that happens is when we forgive others. Instead of writing about forgiveness in general, I want to talk about a specific type of forgiveness; and that is forgiving those who have not and may never apologize.
One of the most basic teachings of forgiveness is that when someone hurts us, they apologize/repent, and we forgive them. And when we hurt someone, we hope that they will forgive us when we apologize and repent. But what about when someone hurts us, and they don’t apologize, do we still forgive them? The answer is yes.
“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10)
There are several reasons why someone might not apologize to us: they might not know they hurt us, they might have moved on before we did, or they simply might not care. Whatever the situation, we forgive no matter what. In President James E. Faust’s iconic talk The Healing Power of Forgiveness, he said,
“Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurt does not bring happiness.”
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Members of the Church have been taught that means there is not a limit to our forgiveness. If someone hurts us multiple times, we forgive them multiple times.
In Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord went into further detail about how this applies when someone doesn’t repent:
“And if he trespass against thee and repent not the first time, nevertheless thou shalt forgive him.
And if he trespass against thee the second time, and repent not, nevertheless thou shalt forgive him.
And if he trespass against thee the third time, and repent not, thou shalt also forgive him.
But if he trespass against thee the fourth time thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord; and they shall not be blotted out until he repent and reward thee four-fold in all things wherewith he has trespassed against thee.
And if he do this, thou shalt forgive him with all thine heart; and if he do not this, I, the Lord, will avenge thee of thine enemy an hundred-fold;” (D&C 98:41-45)
At first there does appear to be a time where we can stop forgiving. But does that really mean that we keep count and draw the line? According to the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, verses 44 and 45 mean that we take the case before the Lord, and leave it in his hands. To me that means that we have essentially done our part, we wash our hands clean of the situation, and we move on. If we move on from the situation then we don’t hang on to that hurt and anger, and we don’t seek vengeance. If we did everything we were supposed to, we can be at peace in following the commandment to forgive, even if someone else hasn’t followed the commandment to repent.
I testify that when we forgive, we truly feel peace. Forgiving someone takes a huge weight off of our shoulders and brightens the lives of all involved. There was a person in my life who I did not get along with. I felt very victimized by them, and I did not enjoy being around them (now that I’m a bit older and wiser, I’m sure there were things I did to hurt them as well). When life took us in different directions there was no repentance, forgiveness, or reconciliation. A few years later I learned that they had passed away, and I felt awful. Although my thoughts had not been consumed by that person, when something did remind me of them, I did not think any positive thoughts whatsoever. Now, it was too late (or so I thought). I was consumed with guilt and grief. I turned to Heavenly Father and had a very personal conversation with him. In repenting for anything I had done, and repenting for taking so long to forgive, I then forgave and felt tremendous peace.
Since that experience I have been able to look at other situations and relationships and notice where I haven’t forgiven someone. I have been able to forgive more easily – or at least start working towards forgiveness. I never want to take that long to forgive someone again.
“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become ‘less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious, and less stressed,’ which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes ‘that forgiveness… is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.’”
Many times it may be difficult to forgive right away. For those situations, President Faust echoed the advice of a Bishop, “Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in.”
I have personally felt the happiness, peace, and well-being that forgiveness brings. I testify that when we forgive others, even those who have not repented, Jesus Christ will heal us and bring peace to us. He truly is the Prince of Peace. There is nothing we can’t do through him.
For more information on how to bring peace to your life through forgiveness visit: https://www.mormon.org/easter/principles-of-peace/forgiveness