PROVO — Psychologist and popular BYU Campus Education Week speaker A. Lynn Scoresby told his audience Thursday that it's their job to try to fix every broken relationship with their family if they truly want to practice Christlike forgiveness.
"Loving God means we work at fixing all of our less-successful relationships," Scoresby said. "We may not be part of the problem, but if we know about the problem, we need to be part of the solution."
Scoresby said forgiveness requires that two people become involved in working out the problem. Too many people assume forgiveness is simply a mental exercise when it actually requires work and a change of heart between the parties.
It also requires being willing to say "I'm sorry" and to talk it out.
He cited the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. as a good example of a true forgiver, exemplified by his kind response to W.W. Phelps' letter to him in Liberty Jail after he had betrayed Smith.
Smith freely forgave Phelps and asked others to accept his contrition as well.
"We have to be willing to fix all of our troubled relationships," Scoresby said, explaining that even when the other party is judging and condemning us, it's crucial that efforts are made anyway. "We know we are all emotionally tied so if it's happening to them, it's happening to us."
Scoresby said talking works because it gets deeper than surface, observable behavior: "When you discover more information, it allows finding a solution," he said.
He said people need to be willing to adapt their behavior, to listen, to empathize and to change.
Most problems are simply caused by a failure to communicate. If the emotion behind bad behavior is identified, the problem can be more easily resolved.
One theme runs through all the problems, Scoresby said, is someone feels unloved or hopeless. They became fearful and thus bitter, defensive and harsh.
Most divorces are actually the result of a loss of hope, he said. "We all need hope, the belief we'll rise to something better," he added.
He listed a few things to remember:
1. Define what you're afraid of and see if you're wiling to confront those fears.
2. Acknowledge that you are part of every relationship event and contribute. (The other person's behavior isn't going to change without your changing.)
3. Change and discard angry thoughts. They don't help.
4. Provide acts of altruism, but don't look for reciprocation or reward.
5. Define how you wish to act and behave. Then practice until it becomes part of your everyday behavior.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 30 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.