The Wasted Atonement Pt. 1

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo one has ever tried to kill me. At least not that I am aware of. I have not been beaten, abused, or raped. No one has firebombed my house or business. None of my family members have been killed or abused. No one has ruined me financially. Nobody has dragged my name through the mud and publicly humiliated me. I have not been the recipient of such evil.

But I know that there are some of you reading this right now who have been.

Over the past few weeks we have been studying the Atonement in Sunday School, and as it usually does, it has given me much time for reflection. Last night, as I was preparing, a very specific thought came to me:

“What is the absolute worst thing anyone has ever done to me?”

I ask you the same question. For me, I honestly can’t think of too many terrible things that have been done to me in my life. Lots of small things, many petty things, but nothing of the order I described above.

As to what I have received, it would seem that I have been greatly blessed and protected. My trials have been more of a “Death by a thousand paper cuts” variety.

On the other side of the coin, I have never tried to kill anyone, or any of the other things I mentioned. My sins, like the offenses I’ve received, are also more of the “Death by a thousand papercuts variety.”

Thankfully, I know that Christ has already paid for my sins. Every little or giant sin of omission, and every small or large sin of commission. Every small thought-sin, every large thought sin. Any sin I have committed has already been atoned for. Christ paid the price for them long ago.

But what about the people that have sinned against you, or me? As I mentioned, I have not been on the receiving end of any horrific sin or affront., but I know many that have been.

What about those sins and those sinners? What becomes of them?

Christ paid for those sins too. Already. Whether the sinner cares or not. Whether the sinner even knows or not, the price has been paid. Justice’s demands have been met. Already. That part is over.

So the terms have already been set between the sinner and the Savior. Where do I, the victim, fit into this?

I don’t.

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

Doctrine & Covenants 64:9-10

A simple concept, but difficult to absorb, and even more difficult to embrace:

If I refuse to forgive another, I have no claim on the Atonement. Beyond that, I deny another the very mercy, the very Atonement that I am counting on.

Why? Because I am not involved in another man’s claim on the Atonement. It is between the sinner and the Savior. For all I know, they have already come to terms regarding the offense.

But by not being able/willing to forgive those who offend me, I am releasing my claim on what the Atonement can do for me.

The Atonement is wasted on me.

You might remember that I have discussed this concept before, using Tarzan as my example of how an unforgiving heart can damn us. I think the topic deserves frequent visits.

Yesterday, I spend part of my evening watching YouTube videos of people who have had horrific things happen to them, murders, accidental kills, etc. who found within their hearts to forgive.  Here are a two:

Perhaps the best story in recent years comes was related by President James E’ Faust in General Conference. He told the story of a group of Amish Schoolgirls who were gunned down by a mass-murderer. Here is the story as he told it: (Link to the full talk HERE)

How petty are my grievances! How tiny the offenses I stew about. How insulting to the Savior is my hesitancy to forgive, to render His magnificent gift to me as wasted.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. I enjoyed this post and it is definitely something I need to be better at. I am reading a book right now and it talked about how during the sacrament, we should repent of our wrongs that past week and that we should also forgive those that have wronged us. I am a black and white thinker, so I can wrap my head around the commandment to forgive others. What’s hard for me, other than being too proud to always obey that commandment, is the next step. Ok, so someone did something to me that hurt my feelings. It isn’t a huge sin like trying to kill or beat me. It’s more like snide comments or making remarks that, I believe are intentionally trying to make me feel unaccepted or inferior. I would be happy to just forgive the person and then stay away from them, but they are a family member. So how do I forgive them, knowing it’s happened multiple times, and could very well happen again, and not waste the Atonement? I feel like I’ve forgiven her, but I would rather not be around her, so is that really forgiveness?

  2. I don’t have wise words or personal examples to share, I just want to tell you I am grateful that you post regularly. I have learned so much from your blogs (and comments) and I and so thankful for the good that you are doing.

  3. One of the great things about forgiveness,is you can do it without the offenders cooperation,repentance or apology. Because it is something internal you do, that frees yourself, and fulfills the commandment..the offender doesn’t even have to participate, although you are giving them a much needed gift. To release yourself of the burden and weight of it,is a blessing.I suffered years of horrible abuse and even though I have mental and physical scars and reminders,because it happened and I can’t change that..my spirit is free because I was able to forgive the person,and let God deal with it. Does that mean I would put myself in the line of fire again? No.But it does mean that I can go on in my life unencumbered and without devastating damage,because of the atonement and forgiveness. It also made me more aware of my actions and how I treat others, as I would never want to be responsible for injuring anyone in the way I was injured. Thankfully,because we are all learning and overcoming (all at different levels and extent) the Savior in His great love and capacity suffered these things for us, so He could uplift us, empathize and allow us to be forgiven if we change and repent.It’s not our call to decide whose sins should be forgiven or not. As you said, we are all beggars and need the cleansing help of the Savior. If I want Him to hear my cries..than I have to forgive others who have wronged me and allow their cries for mercy be heard too.

  4. Timely post since I will be seeing, for the first time in 4 years, the person(s) who lied about me, and attempted to crucify me in a court of law. The judge saw through it and ended it, and I have used your tarzan analogy in my own talks on forgiveness. The issue for me is not forgiveness, I’ve done and moved on, but I am a little curious as to see what actually being the in the same room again will do for everyone involved.

  5. I love this post and this topic. Forgiveness. If you want more stories to read and watch, check out http://theforgivenessproject.com/

    It took me 12 years to forgive the man who raped me as a child. He still denies what he did to me. I don’t need his admission or apology to forgive him though. I also realize the aftereffects of this kind of trauma is a life long ‘thing’ to deal with…but it was when a single’s ward Bishop nudged me on the path that Christ died for my pain and suffering, not just my sins of commission. It was an amazing transformation for my spirit. I learned how the Atonement is an individual experience. I learned that Christ wants me in my imperfections, brokenness, pain and grief. I learned that He is not waiting for me to be perfect to help me. He is always there, so when I go to a dark place of what feels like unmitigated agony, I simply, even though it may not feel simple, pray. The Holy Ghost will eventually calm me and I feel the love of my Heavenly Father and Savior. It’s now been 25 years since the trauma happened and while forgiveness heals my soul, it doesn’t take away the memory (at least for me) , but because of my Savior’s Atonement and my testimony of Him, I think I came out on top. Without that testimony, I’m sure my life would have gone on completely different path.

    I look at stories that you shared and others on the website I listed and often wonder if I could forgive someone like that. I’m sure I could. I’m sure people look at me and wonder how I forgave someone who stole my innocence. It was because of the Savior.

  6. Excellent! Your blog makes me want to be a better person. Thanks! My sister recommended a book to me a couple of years ago that discusses the Atonement in much the same way. It changed my view. It is The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell. Check it out if you haven’t already.

  7. We cannot study, implement, be reminded of the Atonement too much. Thank you for this reminder and encouragement to forgive. I’m of an age that I recognize I don’t have enough time left to withhold my forgiveness. One must remember that forgiveness is not just for others it also means that oft times the person we need to forgive most is ourselves.

  8. What wonderful timing, as this was the lesson in YW today. One thing we talked about is praying for those who despitefully use us. As we pray for them, it allows our own hearts to be turned and softened so that we can more fully and more lovingly forgive them. We should always remember that while the Savior was up on the cross, he asked the Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Like you, I have not had major sins or offenses against me, but forgiveness is still important. Holding grudges only hurts you. As President Uchtdorf so profoundly and unforgettably stated, “Stop it.”

  9. It’s hard. Heck, it’s impossible. But impossible is the Savior’s specialty, and I try to live the fact that the pain is not mine. It’s His; He bought it – at a very high price. My stubborn pride and I want to do it myself… and my brain is trying to get the message to my heart that I can’t.

    I desperately need the Savior and His Atonement. That’s why I hang on, tooth & nail, and ain’t ever lettin’ go.

  10. In your forgiveness reading you may want to include D&C 98. I’ve written several articles on forgiveness and the trend I notice is the difficulty people have of repenting of small sins and forgiving small offenses. My counselor was amazed at the notebook I filled with articles and information on forgiveness. I still struggle with forgiving myself. I need to learn the same compassion for myself that I have for others.

  11. Timely, welcome and painful post today, thank you. I didn’t tell anyone before so I’ll tell a bunch of strangers on here that I had been one of those non-death by a thousand papercuts people, and I thought I had managed to let go and have a great life – despite. However (don’t you hate a “however”), my baddie is just about to become a grandfather in close proximity to said child, my baddie’s family peers know about his abhorent baddie-ness, he seems to have raised a 2nd family without apparently committing the same transgressions, but now I find the nightmares have returned so am working through that. As the Polish people say “not my circus, not my monkey”. Trusting that the peer group will do for the grandchild what I am unable because I cannot be in contact is hard. Lots of prayers for a little baby who’s not even here yet. I am definitely looking forward to having a peaceful heart again.

  12. Yes, this is a painful post for me too as these always open old wounds. Our family was hurt financially by a family member we trusted. To keep this person from going to jail for embezzlement, we paid back the tens of thousands of dollars they stole with the agreement they would pay it back when they sold their house. We have never seen a penny of this. This person was excommunicated and part of the process back was to begin the restitution to us. They moved out of state and behold he got his membership back and he admitted he hadn’t told that stake president the whole truth. Yes, the original money was paid back but didn’t divulge our part in that. Oh and since he had been “forgiven” he didn’t feel he now needed to pay anything back to us. So while we are struggling to build our savings back up we watch that family buy a new house, go on extravagant vacations, etc. Mosiah 4:28 is my go to scripture when I start thinking about this and it helps me to put this in some perspective.

  13. Two thoughts.

    First, I have been the vicitm of one of the egregious sins you listed. As a young teenager, knowing that D&C scripture really stressed me out. I knew what the scriptures said about those who hurt little children, and if my sin for not forgiving the abuser was worse than that….well, this caused me a lot of stress about where I stood with the Lord. Being the victim of such a thing takes A LOT of time to work through, even when you want to forgive, and I felt a lot of pressure to not feel the hurt and resentment I was feeling.

    But I learned that the Lord doesn’t set a timeline. He knew me, and he knew my heart. He knew I wanted to forgive the other person (which I really did, thanks to a lesson about sexual purity from an inspired YW leader who asked us to consider how horrible a person who had committed a sexual sin must feel. How embarrassed they must be. How their life must feel over once people know. She humanized the other person for me. I knew I did not want to be in their shoes, so I knew I wanted to forgive them and help them on their way), but he also knew how confused and hurt I was. So I learned that the Lord doesn’t have a timeline that’s unforgiving of the time needed to heal and learn to forgive. He would be patient with me in that process.

    Second thought, which was an insight shared with me years later, was on Christ’s counsel to forgive 70 times 7. I think the number of times I’ve had to consciously forgive the person who hurt me comes close to approaching that number. Not because they repeated the sin, but because the spirit of forgiveness faded. Pain doesn’t just go away and leave you alone forever. It is possible to get angry all over again long after you thought the issue was done and over. Situations come up later in life (i.e. getting married and struggling with intimacy) that can make you realize that more was robbed from you than you originally thought when you first forgave. And thus the process of forgiveness starts all over again. And it’s okay that this may become a repetitive process in your life. It’s okay if you have to work through it more than once. Perhaps Christ knew that 70 time 7 was more realistic than we often make it sound.

    So in summary, God is patient with the victim. And victim’s should be patient with themselves if they are starting over, once again, on the path of forgiveness. I think Christ knew he would be accompanying many of us of the path of 70 times 7, and I think He’s packed for the journey.

  14. Forgiving an offense is often a process, I think. We pray and work through our feelings and it seems that we have forgiven, but then something comes up and those feelings re-surface, and we go through the steps again. It can be a short process or a longer process, and the point is to stay headed in the right direction.

  15. I have always liked President Hinckley’s talk on forgiveness https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/10/forgiveness?lang=eng where he talks about a woman that forgave the perpetrator that nearly killed her by throwing a frozen turkey through her windshield. Jay Evensen, the reporter that wrote the original story that Pres. Hinckley cited later wrote a follow up story, which you can read at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700173536/Forgiveness-and-a-flying-frozen-turkey-changed-Vicky-Ruvolo.html?pg=all .

  16. When I was a teen, one of my “best” friends greatly offended me. From the moment that I found out what he had done, I had nothing to do with him for about 5 years. At one point he even wrote me a letter asking forgiveness in his convoluted sort of way. He alluded to the fact that he knew that he had offended me, but didn’t know what it was. I ignored it and figured I was better off without his influence. (at the time and the divergent path that he was taking, that was probably true, but it also deprived him of my influence which may or may not have been to his benefit)

    Needless to say, over the course of the last 30 years we have become reacquainted and now exchange the occasional Christmas card and phone call. I actually have more contact with some of his siblings due to our social circles. ….tangent…

    A few years ago we were discussing our “falling out”. I finally told him what it was that had offended me so much. He stood there flabbergasted, then told me how he had thought of so many other things that he knew he had done that he felt were grudge-worthy. The thing that had made me so angry…..had never even crossed his mind.

    Maybe that is a part of the atonement and repentance that we forget….somebody can not repent if they don’t even know that they have sinned.

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