I’ve always been told that I should forgive others, and I believe it—in theory. In real life, though, I haven’t been able to forgive a so-called friend who really hurt me. I’ve tried and I just can’t. What shall I do?
New Era Answer:
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). And yet forgiving someone who has wronged you can be extremely difficult. Your question actually shows a great deal of maturity. You have recognized the need to forgive someone while acknowledging just how tough it can be.
It’s difficult to give you specific advice without knowing exactly what happened and how you dealt with the situation at the time. Here, however, are a few things for you to consider.
Does your friend know that she has hurt you? Don’t assume that she does if you haven’t told her directly. There’s a real temptation to say, “Yeah, but she should know. She should be more sensitive.” We want other people to be able to read our minds because that saves us the effort of explaining what it is we want and need and think. Communicating—really communicating—with other people can be hard work, and too often we choose the easy way out by saying nothing at all when we ought to speak up. If you haven’t talked to your friend about the problem, then do so. Approach her in a friendly manner. Say to her, “Hey, I think we need to talk.” Then arrange to meet in a place where you can comfortably share your feelings.
When you talk with your friend, avoid accusing her. You know how you feel when someone (a parent, a teacher, an older brother) starts pointing fingers in your direction! Don’t say, “You really hurt my feelings when you. …” Instead, try something like “I felt really bad when. …” In this way you can honestly share your feelings about the situation without immediately putting your friend on the defensive. Try to have a discussion, not a confrontation.
Things become trickier if you and your friend have already openly discussed the problem—and you are still unable to forgive her. Now is the time to look inward. Now is the time to truthfully examine your own feelings and accept responsibility for them. Why do you “still hold a grudge?” Are you reluctant to let go of your anger because it is a defense against the hurt you have suffered? Is it a weapon to punish the person who has hurt you?
Your anger is both normal and understandable. Still, unresolved anger is ultimately harmful to your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Your anger will never hurt the other person as much as it will hurt you. If you hang on to your anger, in time your soul will stoop and shrivel.
How do you free yourself from this parasitic emotion? First of all, you ask a kind and loving Father for his help. Tell him of your pain and of your struggle to forgive. Pray specifically for charity, for the power to forgive, and for the ability to understand the friend who hurt you. Heavenly Father knows and loves both you and your friend, and he will help you heal the hurt.
Of course, he will expect you to do all you can for yourself. That means first of all really wanting to let go of your grudge—even if it is a shield against further hurt. Then, as feelings of anger come to you, refuse to indulge them. Do not fantasize about telling your friend off. Do not replay the incident that hurt you over and over again in your mind. Do not think of ways to get even. Refuse to do anything that nourishes your anger, and it will begin to grow weak from starvation.
Follow the Savior’s counsel to “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). You will find that it’s hard to serve and hate at the same time.
There may be failures and relapses, but don’t give up. In time, your anger will wither, and you’ll discover that your grudge has died.
A final word. Your friendship with the person who hurt you may not be the same again—even if you arrive at the point where you honestly can say you have forgiven her. The whole experience will probably change the relationship in some ways. If you feel your friend will continue to do things that hurt you, the two of you may drift apart, even though you have managed to let go of your anger. On the other hand, your friendship may actually deepen if you face that problem and work through it together. Whatever happens, you can at least take pride in the fact that you have worked very hard to do the right thing.
Good luck, and always remember that your Heavenly Father loves you very much.
Forgiveness never comes easy. Pray to our Heavenly Father to help guide you in your thoughts and actions. Remember that he provides the strongest glue to use in repairing friendships!
Heather Dunford, 17 Atlanta, Georgia
I know personally how hard it is to forgive, especially when someone has hurt you deeply. Forgiving is hard for everybody. One thing that helps me is praying to my Father in Heaven for the strength to forgive. You might also want to think how you would feel if you broke a commandment and the Lord said, “I will never forgive you.” I promise you if you forgive a person who has hurt you, the Lord will bless you.
Clayton Phillips, 20 Lodi, California
It’s hard to forgive, especially when we can find no explanation for another person’s hurtful behavior. We should perceive these wrongdoers with compassion—as vulnerable, imperfect human beings like ourselves, capable of weakness, cowardice, and frailty. We should therefore view the act apart from the person. Our long-range relationships are more important and valuable than the momentary pain caused by an isolated negative act.
Justin Fengel, 17 Sacramento, California
Try to think about how you might feel if your friend didn’t forgive you for something you did. Keep in mind the Golden Rule. It’s there for a purpose. Use it in your daily life.
Alison Dingman, 14 Eugene, Oregon
The thing you should do is to ask someone to help you to forgive the person who really hurt you, and to ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, and He will tell you what you should do, and I can assure you that the thing He will tell you is the right thing to do. He is our Heavenly Father.
Kaviraj Narraidoo, 15 Belles Rose, Quatre Bornes, Mauritius
I remember my Laurel teacher saying recently, “If you want to love someone, do something for him.” As she said that I was so touched by the Spirit that I knew it had to be true. I’d been struggling with a relative for quite a while, so I decided to experiment with this idea on her.
Well, to make a long story short, I now consider my sister my very best friend. The love I feel for her is inexpressible. I gave her all I could give, and the Lord, in turn, gave me the strength to forgive and the spirit to love.
Sharlene Weatherman, 18 Roy, Utah
I can understand how you feel. I’ve been through a similar experience. It’s hard to forgive those who have really hurt us, and it’s even harder to forgive ourselves at times. The only thing I can tell you is to pray and be patient. Our Heavenly Father is a loving friend. He knows what we go through. He wants to help you forgive your friend. Ask him to soften your heart. Ask him to help heal the pain you feel. It will take time. As the pain heals and the anger goes away, you will be able to forgive your friend. The Lord helped me. Stay close to him, and I know he’ll help you.
Tammy Myers, 17 Ben Lomand, California
Think of the Savior’s great example of forgiveness. Even after he had been nailed to the cross, he asked Heavenly Father to forgive those who had done it. If Jesus can forgive people who treated him like that, I know you can forgive someone who has hurt you, even if it is hard. Put your trust in the Lord and ask for his help.
Julene Flukiker, 17 Rexburg, Idaho
It has taken me six years to forgive a family member who hurt me and others in the family. This person lowered my self-esteem, and I have felt taken advantage of. For a while I felt this person deserved to be hated, but I know I was wrong. I had to find a solution to a four-year grudge. I felt I should pray about it. Every time I prayed I would ask Heavenly Father to help me forgive and stop having bad feelings toward this person. It didn’t come all at once, but took two years of praying and even fasting. In those two years I slowly was rid of those bad feelings of hatred. I had finally forgiven that person. I felt so much better about myself.
I used to feel the same way towards a person who had hurt me. I carried a grudge for years. In fact, I had no desire to forgive, except I hated the awful way I felt. Then I remembered that the Church teaches us to pray for those who hurt us. For lack of another solution I decided to give ita try. At firsts felt totally foolish praying for this person to be happy or do well in school, but when I was finished I could feel the grudge I’d held for so long melt away and become replaced with love for that person.
Ana Nielsen, 16 King City, California
I’ve always been told that talking to a person face-to-face is the best solution to a problem. I have tried it, and it really helped. I found out what the person’s situation, thoughts, and feelings were. I think that if you have enough courage to talk to your friend about the problem, you will feel much better about yourself and about that person too.
Tamara Eldredge, 16 Hemet, California