20984_000_011“He [who] cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven” (George Herbert, quoted in Ensign, May 1995, 60).
As a full-time missionary in the Ukraine Donetsk Mission, I learned that one of the keys to effective missionary work is friendship and understanding between companions. In one of my areas, my companion and I lacked such unity. We were both at fault. Satan noticed a small fissure in our relationship, and with our help he gradually turned it into a ravine.
Soon we, who were called to carry love and salvation to others, began to feel real enmity toward one another. And we were unhappy, deprived of the Spirit’s help, which is so necessary in the Lord’s work. We both wanted to change, but we simply did not soften our hearts with sincere repentance.
How terrible was my soul’s torment. Every evening I prayed long, tearful pleas for help, but still I did not understand my companion. I hated my weakness and pride, yet I could not cross the barrier between us.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Eccl. 4:9–10).
In two months our companionship ended, but the memory of not overcoming this trial remained with me. I continued to pray, asking the Father to soften my heart and instill in me the spirit of forgiveness.
That sister and I still served in the same city. We met fairly often at conferences and other activities, but we always avoided even looking at each other.
Apparently, during one zone meeting, I was ready to fully accept the gift of forgiveness. As our zone leader said the closing prayer, I felt the power of the Holy Ghost. I was filled with unusual love and tenderness toward my former companion. In my head and heart sounded the message: She is also loved by Him; she also suffers; she also strives for perfection. She is my sister; we have the same goals and values. How is it I didn’t notice that I long ago forgave her? I love her! Again and again I listened to my feelings: Yes, I love her! We will change together!
I wanted only one thing—to tell her of my love and to ask for her forgiveness. I did not think about how she would react; I wanted only for her to see the sincerity in my eyes.
I asked if I could speak with her alone. I told her about my long torment, my prayers, and finally about my feelings that day. From her eyes poured tears of joy and cleansing. She hugged me and said, “Thank you. I have waited so long. I wanted to take the first step myself, but I did not think you would accept it.”
“And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Gen. 33:4).
Since my mission and return to my home in Saratov, Russia, my calling as Relief Society president has allowed me to know of similar problems between sisters in our branch. Sometimes the sisters respond just as I did—with a lack of understanding and an unwillingness to change. I always share my own experience, hoping they will come to know the same joy and relief that was given to me when I truly repented and forgave.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).