My days had been gloomier than the gray winter skies after one of my friends made a hurtful remark about me and my children. As I plodded through the week, disappointment and sadness took turns flooding my heart, deepening the winter cold inside and out.
Thousands of miles away from family, I rely on the few friendships I have cultivated in this country to keep me afloat. The distance has allowed me to become independent and develop a "thick skin." Not even this imaginary armor can protect me, however, from unexpected stabs inflicted by one who is counted as a best friend. What now?
During the following week, a word and a name kept returning to my consciousness: "forgiveness" and "Gordon B. Hinckley." A few days went by until I realized I had to revisit President Hinckley’s conference talk delivered at the October 2005 Semiannual General Conference, titled “Forgiveness.” His address had had a powerful influence in my life at a time when I had to come to terms with past struggles, let go of deep-seated wounds and move on. Once again, its message was to find its way into my heart.
President Hinckley, no doubt feeling the burden of a long life upon his shoulders, said age seems to make man “more aware of the need for kindness and goodness and forbearance.” He recalled the Sermon of the Mount, where the Lord taught:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:38–44)
To illustrate the Master’s lesson, Pres. Hinckley mentioned a crime which had recently occurred in New York: A teenager bought a frozen turkey with a stolen credit card, threw it onto the windshield of a passing car and critically injured the female driver. The woman, Victoria Ruvolo, underwent complicated surgery to repair the damage to her face. Despite her ordeal, she insisted that the prosecution offer the teenager a plea deal to reduce his time in prison. At the end of the courtroom proceedings, her forgiveness and love for the assailant were witnessed by those present, as the 19-year-old approached her and apologized for his crime. As they embraced and wept, the victim expressed her desire that the teenager make his “life the best it can be.”
What a poignant example of Christ-like living. Perhaps she understood that her suffering would last but a short while compared to the teenager’s prospect of decades in prison. Such perspective can only be achieved by those who’ve learned about the divine purpose for our life here on earth. Victoria Ruvolo was choosing to save another soul before exercising her right for earthly justice.
Whatever the magnitude of our grievance, a Christ-like attitude is always the best answer for “what now?” Forgiveness patches the wounded soul and allows us to “lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more.” The more I read President Hinckley’s inspired address, the more I felt love and concern for my friend. What was hurting her to prompt such insult toward another? How could my conduct soften her heart and ease whatever was tormenting her?
Reflecting upon the Atonement, President Hinckley reminds us that “it is through (Christ) that we gain forgiveness. It is through him that there comes the certain promise that all mankind will be granted the blessings of salvation, with resurrection from the dead. It is through him and his great overarching sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of exaltation and eternal life.”
The Spirit whispered a name and a word to my aching mind. Once again, the conference talk it was referring to worked the miracle I so needed, lightening my step, increasing my love for my friend, renewing my faith in divine teachings, teachings we have at our fingertips and so often forget to use, inspired teachings which propel us to live and act as we were meant to: like Christ.
Denise Russell majored in Psychology at the University of New Hampshire. She is an entrepreneur, quilting blogger, and mother of three. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.