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5 Myths About Forgiveness to Stop Believing

“The Savior’s Atonement is not just for those who need to repent; it is also for those who need to forgive. If you are having trouble forgiving another person or even yourself, ask God to help you. Forgiveness is a glorious, healing principle.”

—Elder Kevin R. Duncan

Each of us has experienced the anxious, frustrated feeling of being offended or hurt. In my work as a counselor for LDS Family Services, I have found that the issue of not forgiving others arises repeatedly. Not forgiving prevents true healing. We know that we must forgive (see D&C 64:10) and that forgiveness is healthy for us, yet when it comes down to the work and effort it takes to forgive, many continue to hold on to the pain. As I’ve worked with families and individuals, I’ve found several common misconceptions about forgiveness and several ideas we can apply to help us as we seek to forgive.

Misconceptions

1. I still remember what happened, so that means I haven’t forgiven. Our brains are programmed to remember in order for us to learn. There is a difference between occasionally remembering an event and ruminating on it. Once we forgive, we won’t need to continually think about and analyze the event.

“The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. . . .
“To be tied to earlier mistakes is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.”—Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

2. If I forgive, then I give up the protection I have against those who hurt me. Holding on to pain and hurt sometimes helps victims feel more secure. By withholding forgiveness, we protect the wound, but it also won’t heal because we are constantly thinking about the hurt and reopening the wound.

“Let us bind up the wounds . . . that have been caused by cutting words, by stubbornly cultivated grievances, by scheming plans to ‘get even’ with those who may have wronged us. . . . Fortunately, we all have the power to rise above it, if we will ‘clothe [ourselves] with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.’ (D&C 88:125.)”—President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008)
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