Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The True Power of the Atonement

This post isn't about one person in particular. It's not even about solely romantic relationships. There are several experiences I have in the past and present which combined led me to these thoughts. Some of the specifics I have healed from, others still trouble me from time to time.

I have had a lot of practice in the more recent part of my life exploring forgiveness. Some of the things I have had to forgive have been huge and blatant. Others have been quieter, but specifically designed to attack my personal weakness. Some have been forgiving myself for that weakness.

I am not even sure I know exactly what forgiveness is. Where is the balance between learning to distinguish good and evil and judging unrighteously? How can you learn from your mistakes without becoming calloused? Is forgiveness not being hurt any more, or is it simply not wishing the offender any harm? The latter is incredibly easy for me, but I have struggled mightily to achieve the former.

I've been pretty beat up and I'm not healing the way I feel I should be. I know that those who have offended me don't care one whit about it. They have moved on, and are completely unscathed. So why am I left holding the hurt? Why am I having such a hard time letting it go when that is what I want more than anything?

Perhaps it is because I have let the pain go before. Many times. But every time I forgive and forget, the next experience is harder to bear. I don't want to become calloused and unfeeling. I've been there before, and have worked so hard to soften again. But despite my best efforts, I can feel my emotions hardening in ways that I cannot believe are of God. And I don't understand.

With all my soul-searching and prayer, I have learned that "letting go" as so many people advise is not entirely my choice. I can't force the broken bones of trust and my bruised heart to heal. And it's not happening on its own. In some ways, it is getting worse. The more experience I gain, the less likely I am to recover.

Despite this, it has been an immense blessing. It has given me a perspective on the Atonement that I would otherwise never have had. I don't think that forgiveness has to wait for healing. That is where faith comes in, faith to put your future—and theirs—into the Lord's scarred hands.

In the end, it doesn't matter into what circumstances we are born or our own poor but well-meaning choices lead us. The Savior's sacrifice covers all which takes us away from our Father in Heaven. When we stand before Him, we will be able to blame no other person for our relationship with God. There will be no finger-pointing. We will all have our own unique opportunities to choose the good over the evil, our chance to prove who we want to be.

Mistakes made or not, our truest desires will lead us to either eternal life or to eternal separation from Him. That is why the marks of the nails on his hands and feet are so significant. They are a reminder, a symbol to us of the lengths to which the Savior is willing to go to provide us with a path back to Him.

I don't believe it is necessary to no longer feel pain or damage from the actions of others in order to forgive. You may be left with mistrust, self-doubt, or fear. But, in order to forgive you must be willing to turn the debt for that pain over to the Savior to manage. In lieu of that which is owed you by others, you must accept His future payment to you of peace and wisdom. It may not come now, but you must trust that it will come.

And maybe, if you are blessed, you will be called upon to bring that peace and wisdom to others, even before you are completely healed yourself.


  1. "I don't believe it is necessary to no longer feel pain or damage from the actions of others in order to forgive. You may be left with mistrust, self-doubt, or fear. But, in order to forgive you must be willing to turn the debt for that pain over to the Savior to manage."

    I actually think this notion of letting Christ carry the debt is the fundamental definition of healing. I think we struggle to forgive, as you note, when we somehow want the ledgers settled now. When bad dynamics/abuse/repeated offenses still happen, it's impossible for that kind of justice to be meted out. I love the notion of letting Him carry the debt. And as a result, I think learning to do this leaves space for more peace to eventually come. I do think that over time, learning to let go like this allows peace to come more immediately, not just only in the future.

    It's exhausting to hold onto pain, but I think the journey of a lifetime to learn how to both acknowledge it fully (vs. shoving it down somewhere and not really turning to God with it -- which doesn't really let Christ do His job) and let Him carry the debt as you say, time and time and time again. Seventy times seven, maybe?

  2. Hopeandhealingadmin is wise.

    I don't believe that forgiveness=not feeling hurt anymore. I also do not believe that forgiveness=not being more wary and careful and slow to trust than usual. I do believe that forgiveness does mean not wishing to be personally responsible for making sure that the perpetrator is punished, but instead giving that judgment call to God.

    Pain is hard to bear, and though, over years of good effort to create a life that is made hand-in-hand with God and centered on his love, it may fade and no longer sear us, it will not disappear. We carry it with us. And we carry it with God.

    I believe that Christ remembers clearly the physical and emotional pain he suffered at the hands of others as well as the pain of bearing our sins and still is able to bear all that only due to the grace and power of God. He also remembers the joys of living a life of charity, the glories of this created world, the blessings of good fellowship and of truth and that he knows the unfathomable joy of living in the presence of God.

    There was so much we didn't know about pain and sorrow before we came here and the learning of it can be devastatingly hard in our own lives and excruciating to watch in the lives of others. And from it we may, as we are able, learn and become wiser and more compassionate and more careful and, as we heal through God's grace (which takes a long, long time)learn life's most important lessons about our relationship, our one-ness, with him.

    Both the painful experience and the healing from it is a process involving much adversity and pain, and it is a long one that seems never-ending during it's most difficult times. It can be hard, and painful, and miserable and frustrating and angering and despairing. But it will, as the Lord told Joseph Smith, not be never-ending and, impossible as it may seem now, as we turn to the Lord, it can lead us to comprehend him and be one with him and his peace.

    It's hard. It takes time. Please be gentle with yourself.


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