Relief Society Lesson 9: Forgiving Others with All Our Hearts

This lesson is brought to you by Eve of Z’s Daughters.

I haven’t taught adults for several years, but I tend to teach mostly by asking questions and then trying to make connections among whatever answers people offer. So here are some of my questions and thoughts about forgiveness. I have tentative answers of my own to some of these questions, and no answers at all to others.

On a more practical note, there’s no way anyone could discuss all of these questions in a single lesson, but hopefully some of them will be useful to some of you.

Section I: We must forgive to be forgiven.

  • Why do we have to forgive to be forgiven? (see Matt. 7:1-2, John 7:24, Luke 6:37, 3 Nephi 14:1-2)
  • What’s the relationship between forgiving others of their sins and being forgiven of our own sins? (see Alma 34:29)
  • Or, in other words, what’s the relationship between forgiveness and repentance?
  • In what ways might it be possible to understand forgiveness as a repentance of our anger and bitterness toward someone else?
  • In what ways might it be possible to understand forgiveness as an exercise of faith in the atonement of Christ and in the superior judgment of God?
  • Do you feel forgiveness of others has been an important part of your own repentance? If so, how and why?

Section II: Our forgiveness of others must be heartfelt and complete.

President Kimball emphasizes the importance of sincere, heartfelt forgiveness, not simply going through the motions. How can we make sure our forgiveness is heartfelt and sincere and not simply an empty ritual?

  • What is the appropriate relationship between forgiveness and forgetting?
  • How can we forgive without trusting—that is, forgive someone but also end our relationship with them, as in the case of an adulterous or abuse spouse, for example?
  • In such difficult situations, how can we both protect ourselves and our families and yet completely forgive the perpetrator?

One of President Kimball’s final points in this section is that unless we forgive with all of our hearts, we are unworthy to take the sacrament.

  • How can we make forgiveness part of our weekly preparation to take the sacrament?
  • What if we find ourselves in sacrament meeting and not feeling very forgiving, as I certainly have on occasion? What should we do then?

Section III: We should leave judgment to God.

Quoting D&C 64:8-11, President Kimball emphasizes that we are required to forgive everyone, leaving judgment to God.

  • Why does this scripture suggest that we humans are held to a higher standard than God?
  • Or, in other words, why does God get to choose who to forgive, but we don’t?
  • Why is it wrong to make our forgiveness of others conditional on others’ repentance?
  • Why is it wrong to set limits on our forgiveness?
  • In cases of serious harm, how is it possible to turn someone over to legal or church authorities and yet forgive them? How do we find an appropriate relationship between justice and mercy in our own hearts?

Section IV: Though it may seem difficult, we can forgive.

Sometimes, with the best of intentions we urge forgiveness on each other as a simple matter, saying “Just forgive,” as if forgiveness were a quick and easy thing to do. In cases of serious wrongs—abuse, infidelity, other serious betrayals—forgiveness generally takes time, sometimes years.

  • How can we avoid the temptation to urge “cheap” forgiveness on someone who has been seriously hurt?
  • How can we avoid pushing forgiveness on someone as a way to avoid hearing and feeling their pain?
  • How can we encourage forgiveness in an empathetic, compassionate way instead of a rigid, judgmental one?
  • When we feel a great deal of anger toward someone for a serious wrong, how can we begin to forgive? When forgiveness seems like an overwhelming or impossible task, where do we start?
  • What do we do when we think we’ve forgiven someone and put the matter to rest but find feelings of anger and bitterness returning?
  • When forgiveness takes a long time, how can we patiently and diligently persist in seeking it?

Section V: When we forgive others, we free ourselves from hatred and bitterness.

  • The scriptures teach that if we are offended, we need to take the initiative to speak to the one who has offended us privately (Matt. 18:15, D&C 42:88).
  • Why is it our responsibility to heal the relationship if we are offended?
  • Why is it often so difficult to speak directly to the person who has offended us (instead of complaining about her behind her back to others)?
  • How can we approach the offenses that inevitably occur among family members, friends, and colleagues with a forgiving heart?
  • How can we forgive even those who refuse reconciliation and continue to hurt us

Section VI: As we forgive others, we are blessed with joy and peace.

  • How does the commandment to forgive relate to the promise of peace in this life (D&C 59:23) and the peace which passeth understanding (Philippians 4:7)?
  • How have you found forgiving others to be healing?
  • How have you found being forgiven by others to be healing?

Finally, if you’re looking for more quotations and stories about forgiveness, President Faust’s talk in April conference is an excellent source.

Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    These are wonderful questions for me to ponder. I will be in Primary for the next few Sundays, but I am going to get out the lesson and read it tonight.

    I am just now starting a journey of forgiveness. A few weeks ago my husband moved out, ending nearly a year of my attempts to save our marriage after he left the church and started slowly withdrawing from me and the family. Last Friday I had a session with a counselor, and instead of focusing on how I could get through to my husband and really make him care about me (what I wanted to have happen), my counselor told me that I need to walk away, forgive, and move on with my life. That is hard counsel to follow, but in my heart I feel that it is right.

    When thinking about forgiveness, I feel that we often focus so much on the other person that we lose track of the benefits to ourselves. We worry that if we forgive, that we are somehow “losing” and the other person is “winning”. It takes faith in Heavenly Father and in his plan to forgive and let him deal with the other person instead of us. Forgiveness is a gift for us, so that we can spiritually grow.

    I know a woman whose husband left her about 25 years ago. She still defines herself as a victim and she still has difficulty with relationships with others. Her bitterness has estranged her from some members of her family. In the meantime, her ex-husband has moved on with his life. When I look at her, I know I must forgive. I don’t want to be held back by my bitterness and anger.

    At the same time, I know forgiveness is hard and it is long. My ex is pressuring me to get over it quickly and to “be friends” again. It’s not going to happen that fast. I really think that forgiveness is a change of heart and a spiritual gift that can only come through bringing ourselves closer to Heavenly Father and asking for it. I don’t know any other way to change our hearts. Like I said, I’m only beginning and I have more questions than answers. But from where I’m at, I feel like I understand why the Lord has commanded us to forgive and why it is so important for us to do it.

  2. Caroline says:

    Anonymous,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to end a marriage, but it sounds like it was the right thing for you to do. And I admire you for working so hard to consciously forgive him.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    Eve, I love your questions about “cheap forgiveness.” I think it can be difficult to hear a wronged person’s anger, and preaching forgiveness can feel easier than listening. As anon so eloquently express, forgiveness is often a long, hard process. Just because someone isn’t there yet doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not trying.

  4. Jennifer Vranes says:

    I’m teaching this lesson on Sunday, and came across your blog. Thank you so much for the very helpful outline and questions. It will make my preparation much easier!!!! I really appreciate it.

    Jen

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have had an on-going battle with forgiveness. My wife was unfaithful several years ago. We got through it, although she never really expressed any remorse or asked for forgiveness. We love each other and have raised a family and have had a good life. My problem is that I want to truly forgive her, but it is very difficult. Through the years, I have brought the subject up from time to time about what she did in hopes of having an honest apology. I feel that if I could get this, then my heart would genuinely forgive her. It still hurts me very deeply and it’s hard to hold back about what happened even though I know it’s going to make her angry. Through the years, she has changed the truth about what she did; almost as if nothing happened at all. She has changed the story to be a just innocent encounter and nothing more than that. I don’t know if she honestly believes this, or if she is in denial, or she is just trying to lie her way out this by downplaying the whole incident. This gets me angry. I want to say, that she did admit it to me at the time and I also confirmed it with the man. I guess what I would like to know is “how do I forgive her, if she isn’t willing to ask for forgiveness?” Are their any scriptures that discuss this area. I know that we need to forgive others as God forgives us, so I’m trying very hard to cleanse my heart of all the bad feelings and anger that I hold inside. Bob

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