(October 16, 2015)
It has been said that the easiest way to know whether we have been forgiven of our sins is to see how easily mercy flows to those who have sinned against us. This principle is also taught in reverse (if you won’t forgive, you will not be forgiven), and of course it is true in that way. But I believe that it is true in both ways – not only must we forgive to be forgiven, but when we are forgiven we forgive. They are linked because they are two ends of the same stick.
There are those who have hurt me, and who did so cruelly (or unthinkingly). The wounds they have caused cannot be healed through mortal means – there is no source I can go to for ‘justice’ for what was done to me. The natural temptation is to rage against this injustice and the harm it has caused me and to seek vindication (or even vengeance). But the truth is that the moment I do so – the moment I believe that I have the right to demand that what cannot be made right must be made right – is the same moment I condemn myself.
After all, I have made mistakes in my life (many of them quite bad). Some of these mistakes were ones that I could correct, but a large number of them are beyond my capacity to make right through any mortal means. If I demand ‘justice’ from those who have hurt me – if I insist they make things right – then I condemn myself in I am held to the same standard.
That is why those who have been forgiven of much are so ready to love and to forgive – they recognize the great gift the Lord has given to them and they do not want to trivialize it or dishonor it by their selfish demands. Elder Maxwell spoke about the fact that the older he got the less interested in justice and the more interested in mercy he became. I can certainly understand that.