Day in the Park


Hating came easy. But could I forgive?

Day in the Park

I thought I would never want to forget the hatred I felt that night. I was a high school junior with friends who were good examples and strong in the gospel. One evening, my friends and I decided to organize a scavenger hunt. Each of us asked a date to come along, and we met at a local park. We then spent two hours driving around the valley on a frantic search for old baseball cards, kitchen knives, and various other trinkets. After each couple had collected the necessary items, we all returned to the park.

As my friends and I were happily comparing the success of our scavenger hunts, a line of headlights turned into the park. I soon noticed a group of guys casually strolling toward us. While I sat talking with my date, one of them approached me. I became uneasy when I noticed his hand wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle.

At first, the stranger seemed rather friendly. He politely asked me what school my friends and I attended. As I began to reply, I felt a cold, wet splash against my shirt. Staring up in shock, I watched this stranger spray his beer onto our group. He then approached one of my unsuspecting friends and punched him in the face. As we stared, frozen in disbelief, the strangers ran back to their cars while tossing their bottles back toward us. We watched them turn out of the park and drive out of sight.

In the days following the incident, I was furious. I became even more bitter when I discovered that some of those guys attended our school. I found myself condemning them in my mind every time I was reminded of the episode. We found ourselves beginning to spread exaggerated accounts of the incident, and I felt a fire of hatred ignite for them. What I didn’t realize was that with every hateful thought and word I was polishing a heart that was becoming hard as granite.

A number of months later, I was planning a devotional for my seminary class. During my preparation, I found myself struggling to find a topic for my presentation. Frustrated, I opened my scriptures to Matthew. Midway through chapter 6, I read verse 15 [Matt. 6:15] which shone like a vivid light. It stated, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

It was then I decided to focus my devotional on forgiveness. As I pondered this scripture and how it related to my life, I remembered the incident at the park. At that moment I realized how dark my spirit had become. As I pondered how difficult forgiveness was for me, I looked to Christ—mankind’s greatest example. I remembered as the Savior hung on the cross, looking down upon men who had just mocked, beaten, and were about to crucify him. I was further amazed when I realized that Christ not only forgave those who wronged him, but he died for their sins as well.

After thinking, I decided I would strive to set aside my judgmental nature and realize my own faults. I always try to remember that I have offended others as well. Because all people make mistakes, we as Heavenly Father’s children must focus on overcoming our own weaknesses rather than judging our neighbor’s shortcomings.

Although I still struggle to forgive the guys at the park, I now realize that they made a mistake which they may or may not regret. I know now that I have to forgive and move on rather than be held back by my anger.

[illustration] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus