Chapter 12--Peace and Forgiveness

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

          When faced with the consequences of our loved ones’ addiction, we may complain or become bitter. We sometimes ask questions such as “Why does this have to happen to me?” “Why do I have to suffer this now?” or “What have I done to deserve this?” Although these questions may initially dominate our thoughts and absorb our energy, we can choose to respond differently to our circumstances. We can ask ourselves, “What does God want me to learn from this?” “What would He have me do? Who can I serve?” and “How can I remember my blessings?”   It is important to remember that these trials  are a result of our loved ones’ poor choices.     
As we exercise faith, we can feel the purifying influence and peace of His Spirit, and He will replace “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).  As we cry unto God, He will bless and comfort us in significant ways. Remember to ask for what we should ask for.  
          Forgiveness is an important part of finding peace. Part of the process of offering forgiveness is letting go of burdens that keep us from experiencing the Savior’s peace.   We will find healing as we forgive others.   Forgiveness does not mean that we condone our loved ones’ poor choices or allow them to mistreat us. But forgiveness does allow us to move forward spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Just as our loved ones are in bondage to addiction, our unwillingness to forgive can hold us captive. As we forgive, we leave behind feelings that have the power to “canker, fester, and ultimately destroy”   In this way, we eliminate barriers to having the Spirit more abundantly and we can continue on the path of discipleship.  

How has forgiveness blessed you?

          When forgiveness seems beyond our capability, we can rely on the Savior to help change our hearts and grant us the gift of charity. Forgiving someone when we have been wronged or hurt can be very difficult—especially when these offenses are regularly repeated. But this is part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  
“Jesus said it is easy to love those who love us; even the wicked can do that. But Jesus Christ taught a higher law. . . . ‘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.’ . . .
The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way God sees us.   
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 hurts does not bring happiness. 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.  If we will trust in the Lord and seek His aid, he can help us to forgive, even as He does.

When has God helped you forgive?

How can God help you forgive now?

          Our personal importance grows when we don't forgive.  The real problem is Pride.  
We learn to suffer just to punish who abused us, like a child having a tantrum, asking for attention.  We hurt ourselves just to say "Look what I am doing because of you".
Go and find the little child in the corner having a tantrum.  Take pride and put it in the trash.  Ask for forgiveness, forgive others and miracles happen.  
          The power of forgiveness is that it can restore transparency to your life and freedom to your spirit.  The most common misunderstanding about forgiveness is that it means giving up or giving in on what you believe is right or releasing a debt that you feel is an injustice.  Do not condone destructive actions.  We do a real service to ourselves and others when we correct situations, attitudes and conditions that give rise to harmful behavior.  Forgiveness means bringing resolution to troubled situations.  It is not for the weak of heart.  Nothing will make our hearts stronger than forgiveness practiced for the accomplishment of restoration. 
          Though forgiveness begins in our hearts, it usually requires action. It begins with a change of viewpoint and rise above judgments. Forgiveness is known by its result. Prayer is the best beginning.  Love is the power that carries it through. At times, we must act to prevent the offense from occurring again or worsening.    
           Sometimes we must repair a degenerating condition or inform an offender of the hurtful actions.  Sometimes an expression of emotion is helpful.  Be assured that the problem will not clear by adding more destruction.  Revenge will not restore peace.
          Forgiveness of another restores the truth of one's own being. We cannot afford to withhold forgiveness.  Souls are punishing themselves because of what they cannot forgive.  Forgiveness means release. Grudges keep us from moving forward.  Bitterness is the biggest barrier that exists to joy and getting what we want from life. Consciously releasing resentments causes us to move forward in areas where we were previously stuck. Bitterness and unforgiveness are claws that set their hooks deep in our hearts; they are chains that keep us held captive to the wounds and the messages of those wounds. Until we forgive, we remain their prisoner. Paul warns us that unforgiveness and bitterness can wreck our lives and the lives of others (Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15). We have to let them go.
          When we come to the Lord seeking forgiveness, He will prepare the means for each of us. The way will be opened for us to forgive so we in turn may be forgiven.  In this way, all may come to know the Lord.
          Do not depart this life while still harboring resentment. It does not matter how just the claim. We must surrender our claims for justice to merit mercy.  By showing mercy, mercy may be found.
          Christ taught: "I say unto you, 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." (Matt. 5: 44-45)  He wants us to go beyond merely forgiving others.  He wants us to become like Him, and atone or cover the sins of others.  All those who have the hope of Christ within them will do likewise.

Art by Amberle Stoffers
      Remember that those who hurt us were also deeply wounded themselves. They were broken hearts, broken when they were young, and they fell captive to the enemy. They were in fact pawns in his hands. This doesn't absolve them of the choices they made, the things they did. It just helps us to let them go - to realize that they were shattered souls themselves.

          Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves. It frees us from  past experiences, and past relationships. It allows us to live in the present time. When we forgive ourselves and forgive others,  a tremendous sense of freedom emerges.  We must forgive those we feel have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much, we don't want to keep paying for the injustice…Forgiveness is the only way to heal.

          Often we need to forgive ourselves for putting up with painful experiences and not loving ourselves enough to move away from those experiences.  Forgive others and be in the moment. See the old bitterness and the old pain just roll off our shoulders as we let go and give it to the Savior. Let the doors of our heart open wide to His love. When we come from a space of love we are always safe. Forgive everyone. Forgive yourself. Forgive all past experiences.

          We do not have to know how to forgive. Just be willing to forgive. The Savior and the atonement will take care of how.
           Forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling.  If we waited to forgive until we felt like forgiving, we might never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made. We allow the Savior to take the hurt from our past.  If our forgiveness doesn't visit the emotional core of our life and soften our heart, it will be incomplete. We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness to those who hurt us, including and especially ourselves. This is not saying, "It didn't really matter"; it is not saying, "I probably deserved part of it anyway." Forgiveness says, "It was wrong. Very wrong. It mattered, hurt me deeply. And I release you. I give you to the Savior."

          The limiting factor in repentance is not obtaining forgiveness!  The price has already been paid.  Forgiveness is given instantly when asked for.  The limiting factor is acquiring and applying new knowledge so that the sinner forsakes sin permanently.
    Forgiveness heals terrible, tragic wounds, for it allows the love of God to purge our hearts and minds of the poison of hate. It cleanses our consciousness of the desire for revenge. It makes place for the purifying, healing, restoring love of the Lord. 

Personal Learning and Application

Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, insights, and plans to implement what you learn. As the needs and circumstances in your life change, repeating these answers will provide you with new insights.  Go back to the questions in the chapter.  Write your answers.  Each time you go through a chapter, your answers might change.
1.   As you study the scriptures listed below, prayerfully consider how you can apply the principles they teach.
          Matthew 18:21–35 (We should forgive others as the Lord freely forgives us)

          Luke 7:36–50 (We can feel the love of the Savior when we are forgiven)

2.  What does "repentance" mean to you?

3.  Make a list of those who you still need to forgive.

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