Sunday, May 25, 2014
The other end of the forgiving stick
Remember the last post i did about the danger of pornography and how to overcome it? Well, as I was writing it, I had a thought come to my head, "I should write about how to forgive yourself. That one's pretty hard to do sometimes. Sometimes harder than getting forgiveness," but, school got busy and that idea disappeared from my mind pretty quickly. Oddly enough, the next paper we had to write for my Doctrine and Covenants class, one of the prompts happened to be, If you truly repent and have been forgiven by Heavenly Father, how can you learn to forgive yourself?" Well, if that's not inspired, I don't know what is. So I wrote the paper, turned it in, and here's an expanded version for all of you. Enjoy!
We’ve all disobeyed God’s commandments in one way or another and we have to repent because of that. God is more than willing to forgive us. Since he is our loving Heavenly Father, He’s the last person who wants to hold a grudge against us for our mistakes. The hard part about forgiveness is, sometimes, forgiving ourselves. We may beat ourselves up about some poor choice we made weeks, months, or even years ago. We may think we’re “broken” and irreparable because of having looked at pornography, disobeyed our parents, or not doing something we should have to help someone. So how do we do it? How do we make ourselves realize that we’re not even guilty of our past mistakes and that there’s more than that mistake that we made?
First of all, let’s get some perspective here. God freely forgives us. He doesn’t taunt us saying, “I’ll think about forgiving you. You just have to…” No. If we really repent, He’ll say, “Your sins are forgiven you.” In the short space of 5 sections of Doctrine and Covenants, God tells people that their sins are forgiven 4 separate times (D&C 60:7, 61:2, 62:3, 64:3).
So, we know that God wants to forgive us, big whoop. We’re trying to forgive ourselves, not God. Well ok then, let’s look at what God expects us to do to not be guilty in His eyes anymore. D&C 64:7 tells us to confess our sins and ask forgiveness. Let’s tie that to D&C 58:42-43 where we’re told to confess our sins and then forsake them. Most sins we can confess to God and then move on. Even when we need to talk to a priesthood leader about something we’ve done, their purpose there isn’t to condemn us, it’s to help us. The idea of confessing is that we can get the guilt we feel inside of ourselves off our chest so to speak. We can cast our guilt on Christ and leave it at that.
The Lord told us in D&C 64:9-10 that He’ll forgive whoever he wants to. That’s his privilege. But our Job is to forgive everybody. I’d say that everybody includes ourselves. If we can’t leave what we’ve done behind thereby forgiving, I’d almost argue we haven’t fully repented. We can’t let it torture us.
In the Book of Mormon, there’s the story of a young man named Alma. He had committed some pretty serous sins in his youth, but repented as was forgiven on his sins. Now, the part I’m talking about (Alma chapter 36) is about 25 years after Alma changed his ways. I have no doubt in my mind that he remembered the things that he had done when he was trying to destroy God’s church. It’s hard to forget our mistakes. BUT, in verse 19, Alma says, “And now, behold, when I thought this [that his sins were forgiven], I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.” When he repented, he still remembered his sins, but the memory of that didn’t fill him with the inexpressible horror and torment that he had felt before (Alma 36:12-14, 17). When we really forsake a sin, we still remember it. We’ll probably remember serious sins forever, in fact, Alma 11:43 tells us that at the final judgment before God we’ll have “a bright recollection of all our guilt.” But the pain that we feel from them can be taken away by the Atonement. We can take those feelings and make them our conviction to never commit that sin again.
Another problem comes along in the form of perfectionism. Christ himself told his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:48). Well, if we all sin, it’s impossible to even get near that point right? In October 2010, Jorge F Zaballos said in General Conference, “Even when, from a purely human perspective, perfection can appear an impossible challenge to achieve, I testify that our Father and our Savior have made known to us that it is possible to achieve the impossible. Yes, it is possible to achieve eternal life. Yes, it is possible to be happy now and forever.” (“Attempting the Impossible” October 2010) That’s why it says in Alma 7:13 ,”…the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.” What seems impossible is completely possible, thanks to Christ’s atonement, forgiveness is practically guaranteed as long as we do our part by trying to keep the commandments and try to be better every day.
Joseph Smith said, “A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner.” We’re the only ones that prevent ourselves from being forgiven for our sins. God is more than willing to forgive us if we’ll put ourselves on the path to forgiveness and learn from our mistakes. So what’s holding us back? He’s waiting to help.