Tuesday, November 4, 2014

490 Gifts

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. A friend of mine once said that we're all crayons leaving marks on one another. He said that sometimes we hurt others with the marks we leave on paper. We can dwell on our past mistakes or we can learn from them. We can seek forgiveness and forgive and turn those marks into a beautiful picture. It may take time. Forgiveness may be withheld from us. But we can always learn from our mistakes and see it as a gift instead of a curse.

Honestly, I think he said it better but I couldn't find the original quote.

Crayons can make a mess. They can also be beautiful.
In the latest episode of Legend of Korra, Asami visits her father, Hiroshi, in prison and returns a large stack of unopened letters. She tells him she wants nothing to do with him after he's hurt her. Hiroshi pleads with her to stay. He talks about all of the regrets and everything he ever accomplished as an engineer and entrepreneur. Hiroshi says the one thing he created he's truly proud of is his daughter, Asami.

Asami leaves in tears. How many times did her father use loving words that conflicted with actions of hatred or indifference? The conflict she would feel in wanting to protect herself but also wanting her father back. Asami retreats to the park. There, she sees a father and daughter play Pai Sho.

Asami returns to visit Hiroshi in prison. She tells him when she first came to visit him she said she wanted to tell him that she never wanted to see or hear from him again. She wanted to tell him this because she wanted her words to hurt him. She wanted to hurt him so Hiroshi would know how she felt. Asami tells him of the sadness she felt in a tainted past and relationship. Hiroshi expresses wanting to make amends. Asami says, "I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forgive you but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try." The father and daughter then play a game of Pai Sho together.

For me, forgiveness is not a destination but a journey. I've had to wake up every day and make the decision to forgive those who have hurt me. I need to remember to forgive myself for my past mistakes, sins, and transgressions. It's easy to feel hurt, bitter, and angry. It's hard to forgive.

Asami had trouble forgiving her father Hiroshi.
Forgiveness can become easier over time. Day by day it can become a strength. Overtime, learning to forgive each day helped me face the biggest challenge in forgiveness I could ever face. It was when I looked at my abuser in the eye and forgave him.

I was sexually abused when I was 4 years old. I think I've mentioned it here before. I made the decision to forgive my abuser face to face. I told him what my experiences were leading up to that point. I didn't sugarcoat it, the experience was hard. I expressed my hurt authentically but also objectively. This wasn't about shaming him but being heard. I then forgave him. I told him that I knew he was a different person then. I believed he changed and even if he hadn't I would still forgive him.

I felt most powerful feeling when I told him, "If you are held accountable at the last day for what you did it will be me that stands up and defends you. I will be a witness for your change." Tears were streaming down our eyes when I said this. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life that really taught me something about the atonement. I felt changed that day. I felt more love for myself and more peace.

I haven't thought much about my abuse ever since then. I barely ever think about it. Before, I often felt its shadow over me but since forgiving my abuser, I've been free. Forgiveness gives us freedom. It is a gift to ourselves and whoever we extend forgiveness to--if they accept it.

The savior said that we should forgive not once or seven times but "seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:22) He isn't saying we only have to forgive 490 times either. Christ means that we should always forgive. That doesn't mean we let ourselves get hurt again. We may still set boundaries with those that hurt us. That may mean blocking them on social networking sites or not inviting/allowing them into our homes. Each situation is different and it is between you and your Heavenly Father on where those boundaries need to be.

Those boundaries do not prevent us from showing love or loving those that have hurt us. Forgiveness is a process. It may take a lifetime for trust to be built back up and wounds to heal. I know that despite the difficulty, forgiveness is possible and powerful. It can be a gift to us and bring us closer not only to our Heavenly Father but to the men and women we want to be.


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