It’s not easy, but when we forgive, our burdens are lifted and we feel greater peace.
Jesus taught us to forgive
When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, He reminded the people of the way things had been under the law of Moses: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (see Matthew 5:38). He then taught the higher law of forgiveness to turn the other cheek and “love your enemies” (see Matthew 5:39–44).
Forgiveness makes us free
Holding onto hurt feelings is a constant reminder to be upset. Unresolved conflicts take up way too much space in our minds. We lose sleep over them, and if we’re not careful, we can allow them to damage our other relationships.
Withholding forgiveness is a drain on our energy that could be better used to serve others and enrich our own lives. The Book of Mormon teaches that “men are, that they might have joy” (see 2 Nephi 2:25). How can we have joy when we are focused on feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and revenge?
When we choose to forgive, we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts. Happiness is a choice. It does not depend on the actions of others or on justice being served. Forgiveness makes us free.
Forgiving someone is easier said than done, especially if the wrongdoing is severe. Sometimes it feels like forgiveness is impossible. But if we rely on the Savior and pray for power to forgive, Jesus will help us. Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a Church leader, said, “Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, [and] resentment” (“The Healing Ointment of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 33).
Forgiveness is different than trust
Once you forgive someone, it may still take a long time for you to trust them again. That’s okay. For example, you could forgive someone who stole from you, but that doesn’t mean you leave the door unlocked. Likewise, someone who has been in an abusive relationship can forgive the abuser without entering into that relationship again. We should forgive everyone. But use wisdom in deciding to trust someone again.
The ultimate example of forgiveness
When we find it difficult to forgive, we can look to the example of Jesus Christ. Even as He hung on the cross with nails through His hands and feet, He cried out to God, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We may not have the ability to forgive on our own, but Jesus suffered for our “pains and afflictions” (see Alma 7:11) so that He would know how to help us. Through His grace, we can not only be forgiven, but we can also have the strength to forgive others.