Foundation of Forgiveness

By Candy Brayton of Independence, Missouri, USA

Listen to its teachings and discover anew its principles. Do not yearn for times that are past, but recognize that you have been given a foundation of faithful service, even as you build a foundation for what is yet to be.  Doctrine and Covenants 162:2b

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” For many years I have struggled with this prayer phrase. The trespass against me was at the profoundly life-altering far end of the spectrum. It took my innocence, sense of safety, and well-being.

I’ve struggled with shame, anger, helplessness, and hopelessness. The trespasser never took responsibility for the actions, never admitted the suffering caused.

My church family’s response has been to pray with me and for me—always encouraging me to find peace and strength through forgiveness. Some of those helping me have described forgiveness as “wiping the slate clean, and starting anew.” Another answer was “to forget.”

I asked, “How do I do this?” Well-intentioned people have given flowery phrases about love and the healing of the Holy Spirit. Or, “If you have faith, you just do it.”

However, phrases like “not enough faith” and “not a good enough Christian” added to my previous self-criticism. I felt even more miserable.

I continued to pray—desperate for insight that would help me understand.

I found the book, Five Stages of Grief (Kubler-Ross, 1969), which included denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It was one of those “eureka” moments.

I saw myself shifting through each of those stages. I let myself grieve what I had lost. The shift of view has helped me move forward to the “acceptance” stage.

I no longer need to hear remorse from the trespasser. I’m no longer angry when I think of that person.

It may not be how some might define “forgiveness,” but with the help of the sacred community, I find myself more at peace.

Prayer for Peace:

Reconciling God, we know you weep with us when we are in our dark places. Stay with us when we hurt. We know forgiving helps us find peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Honoring the Worth of All Persons

Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the deep meaning of the words sink into your mind, heart, and body. Sense the intimate knowledge God has of you and every child ever born. Ask God for an awareness of the sacred worth of each person on the planet. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth.

Peace Covenant:

God, I will call on you and Christ’s community when my ability to forgive is challenged.

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1 Comment

  1. Candy

     /  3 November 2012

    Since writing the article above; I have found “Don’t Forgive Too Soon: Extending the Two Hands That Heal”, by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn. It’s published by Paulist Press, ISBN 978083137046. It places the stages of grief into Christian context.


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