See also: Sacrament Talk Helps
Topics: forgiveness, peace of mind, difficult people
Time: 9-10 minutes plus up to 11 mins worth of possible add-ons (in purple).
Sometimes forgiving is hard.
Optional Introduction: (1-3 mins) Open this talk with a basic, concise, gospel description of forgiveness as you understand it. Perhaps express how you honestly feel about the topic of forgiveness in general (i.e. if you’ve ever battled with it or if you’ve been on the sweet, receiving end of it) If you have more details to share about this – save them for later in the talk, this is simply an intro.
Perhaps the Christian notion of forgiveness deserves more respect than we realize. This far-fetched idea that human beings who regularly step on one another’s toes…are required to magically produce enough god-like character to forgive each other too.
Suppose there were such a group of people so forgiving. Can we envision all the time, energy, resources, and thought space that would be freed up towards building a greater version of society? Forgiveness is not an act of submission; it’s a restoration of one’s sanity and creative strength.Shawnie Cannon – Divine Code
Optional: (1-2 min) Share your thoughts and observations about this quote.
C.S. Lewis in his book – Mere Christianity – says, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive…”
Not to mention, hardly anyone spells out concrete steps of how to blissfully tame our thoughts a difficult person or burdensome, past episode in our lives. Instead, they sometimes preach forgiveness like our soul comes equipped with an on/off switch labeled “forgive others.” And all we have to do is flip the forgiveness switch to “on.”
I’ve never found it quite that easy.
Reality is more like how the brother of Jared describes us:
“…for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually… [and we feel like clobbering everybody else over the head because of it]… (Ether 3:2 – liberally revised)
Optional: (1-3 mins) Use discretion and share a challenging circumstance for you to forgive. Take care not to share something personally related to those who listen to your talk. (It is never a good idea to use the pulpit to humiliate, embarrass or put someone on the spot – even if they honestly deserve it.) Just share the circumstance – save how you eventually forgave them for a later moment in this talk. The purpose here is to use a real-life example to help light up the following gospel principles.
Forgiving is a Requirement
The predicament is, forgiving others is a hardline REQUIREMENT if we are to experience a meaningful, precious relationship with God.
“And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation. (Mosiah 26:31)
Forgiving those especially difficult or harmful people certainly does seem like a lot to ask of us. In fact, it’s even ridiculously UNFAIR considering what we’ve been through. Yet, forgiveness ends up being our own powerful, liberating grace. Do we really have to understand exactly why God requires it of us – as much as we need to know how much we benefit?
Forgiving others strengthens hearts, dispels gloom, rejuvenates our well-being, releases pain and anguish…the list goes on.
While authentic forgiving takes some intentional effort, reaching for that summit is worth the trouble. In fact, forgiveness is one of the most buoyant experiences we can pass through – both forgive and to be forgiven. Sometimes the sensation resembles extreme lightness and soaring on wings.
Optional: (1-3 mins) Share the details of a personal forgiveness experience. A) a person you forgave, how you did it and how it felt OR B) the experience of being forgiven yourself. Again, use discretion and compassion when choosing a moment to share.
Common Misunderstandings – Optional Bonus Section
How do we score the gift and peace of forgiving? Perhaps it helps to identify a couple of common misunderstandings about forgiveness. C.S. Lewis explains forgiving tough people in his book – “Mere Christianity.”
“For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are…”
“Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves, being sorry that the man should have done such things and hoping, if it is in any way possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again…to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured, in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him, [sending them on their way] and wishing his good, NOT feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.”
Knowing we don’t have to excuse people or downplay what they’ve done to forgive them is an extraordinary boost upward. It helps us to the next step; visualize yourself setting them and their trespasses down at God’s feet and leaving them in His hands.
Let It Go
These following verses are short and simple, and I especially love the instructions to “let it go” in verse 11:
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds. (D&C 64:10-11)
Forgiveness does not mean you’re excusing what they’ve done or even letting them off the hook. All mean-spiritedness, cruelty and hurting others have a hook. Instead, you’re sending them down the road for the Lord to remedy, which enables your own soul to escape and clear out space for your peace. Furthermore, you hope and trust that God will work it out with them fairly and with mercy in the same way you hope He will work things out with you.
That’s how we love our neighbors as ourselves.
For me, it’s a relief to know I don’t have to pretend toxic people are nice if this isn’t true. Nor that we’re tight friends with those who behave poorly. It means I can be civil and kind on my part in that passing moment with them, not get sucked in – nor try to prove anything. I can set healthy boundaries, wish them well, and emotionally send them on. In my bigger moments, I can pray their hearts may have the will to change and above all, I trust God to handle those matters with them.
May you attain the serenity of peace your soul would love to feel…