"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
December 12, 2012
by Kathryn Grant

A drunk driver causes an accident that kills several members of a family.

A business associate betrays a colleague, causing financial loss as well as loss of opportunity.

A parent damages the innocence of a child through emotional or physical abuse.

A neighbor spreads a rumor which causes contention and divisions among former friends.

As the world grows darker prior to the Savior’s return, each of us will have many opportunities, large and small, to forgive others. Forgiveness is something most of us know we should do, and deep inside we want to do it. We know we would benefit from it, and we crave the peace it would bring. But actually doing it, actually letting go of the hurt or loss or betrayal—that can be another matter entirely.

We might try sheer willpower, but it will probably be ineffective over the long run. We might try to ignore the wound, but ignored wounds tend to surface when we least expect them to, causing havoc to ourselves and others. We might even give up and choose to keep harboring hate in our hearts, rather than make the difficult journey of forgiveness. But that choice leads to a life without true joy.

Once when I was pondering forgiveness, a simple parable came into my mind. Imagine that you have just gone to the bank and have taken out a large cash withdrawal. Cautiously, you put the money in your wallet and step out onto the street. But you haven’t gone far when you are assaulted and your wallet is stolen. You try to stop the thief and cry out for help, but to no avail. Your money is gone.

Then a stranger steps forward. He pulls out his wallet and says to you, “I saw what happened, and I know how much you needed the money that was just stolen. Here—I’ll pay you the amount the thief took, with one condition: that you will not personally press charges, but let me deal with the thief. I promise you that I will take care of it.”

The merciful stranger, of course, represents the Savior; his kind actions, the Savior’s payment for sin. When I remember the atonement of Jesus Christ, forgiveness seems to come more easily. Jesus Christ has the power to heal the damaging effects of sin. He heals the damage of our own sins as we repent, and He heals the damage of others’ sins against us as we forgive.

The parable of the unmerciful servant underscores this truth (see Matthew 18:23-35). If we don’t forgive, we put ourselves in the place of the unmerciful servant, who denied a fellow servant the mercy he himself had received. We are saying, in effect, that we want the atonement for ourselves, but not for the person who wronged us. However, in taking this stance, we shut out of our own hearts the healing that the Lord could give us.

Even when we know these things, forgiveness can feel overwhelming. That’s why it’s a perfect challenge for this column and its theme of making progress by trying things “just for a day.” Complete forgiveness may start with forgiveness just for a day. As we do what we can, the Lord reaches into our hearts and works miracles.

So think of someone you can forgive. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the next day. For just one day, live with forgiveness in your heart toward this person. My prayer is that you’ll start a journey that will bring you greater peace through forgiveness.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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