A treatise on forgiveness.
Comments I made elsewhere that I want to preserve. Slightly edited.
I found it hard to forgive because I was taught a false meaning of forgiveness. I had been taught that forgiveness was akin to absolving the offender. I had been taught (wrongly) that to forgive someone meant that you had to either 1) pretend the offense never happened, or 2) pretend that the offense wasn’t harmful.
Both of those ideas of what forgiveness is can be very poisonous to the offended party.
I’ve since learned that forgiveness is turning the offender and the offense over to Christ, and accepting Christ’s atonement as having done two things: 1) paying the price of the offense on the part of the offender, and 2) paying to heal the wound on the part of the offended party.
Forgiveness is not pretending anything, such as “it didn’t hurt” or “it doesn’t matter” or “it didn’t happen.”
Forgiveness is acknowledging that Christ paid for that offense and thereby Christ has the right to judge the offender and either forgive (as in absolve) or punish the offender.
Forgiveness also encompasses the victim calling upon Christ’s atonement for healing from whatever wounds were caused by the offense/sin.
Forgiveness in the sense that I’m describing doesn’t depend on whether or not the offender repents or not. That is because Christ paid the price (both for the sinner, and the healing of the victim) regardless of whether the sinner repents or not.
I had to realize this “new” (to me) definition of forgiveness in order to get over some wounds that I had suffered at the hands of people who had hurt me.
Emotional and spiritual wounds from abuse in this life often can’t be totally healed in this life. It will take until the resurrection to make some of those hurts go away. But to the degree that we can “apply” the atonement, we can be healed to a degree in this life, and we can forgive in this life.
I’ve tasted what it’s like to have the Light of Christ completely withdrawn for just a few seconds at a time. (D&C 19:20) I imagine it is what outer darkness or “Hell” must be like, to be totally outside of any spiritual radiation that comes from God and Christ.
If you ever feel like “Someone must PAY!”, then please realize that Jesus DID pay. And for those who don’t or won’t repent, it won’t take long in that temporary version of outer darkness that we call ‘Hell’ for them to actually pay the price through suffering of their own.
One human forgiving another does not absolve the offender or "cancel" the sin. The Lord will not withhold justice merely because the victim forgives, if the offender fails to repent to the extent that he can and that the Lord expects.
The scriptures back this up where the prophets have written “The Lord judge between thee and me.” IE, the prophets say to turn the judgement over to the Lord.
It is possible, and I think Christ requires it, for us to forgive others before Christ absolves or “cancels” the sin on the part of the offender.
Under the “turning it over to Christ” definition, forgiveness can happen as soon the offense is committed.
For a good treatise on how victims can view offenses, and “let them go” and not let them eat at you, see “The Enchiridion” by Epictetus.
and another translation here:
If you come across a passage that you don’t understand, or don’t see the logic behind, check out the other translation. Using the two together on a difficult passage fleshes out the author’s intent better.
Epictetus was not a Christian, but there is a lot of overlap between the Stoic philosophy that he espoused and Christianity.
In fact, I’d recommend everyone who has unhealed wounds caused by the offenses of others to read Epictetus’ Enchiridion. There’s a lot of good stuff in there about how to let go of things we don’t have any control over. Epictetus was able to put the concept of Christian forgiveness into language I could finally understand.
For cancellation of the sin on the part of the sinner, and healing on the part of the victim, Christ does seem to require some action of both parties: the sinner must repent, and the victim must forgive.