When to Forgive

“Then came Peter to him, and said” Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? And Jesus saith unto him: I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” -Matthew 18:21-22

I was asked recently how much we should take when others push us? How much should we give when others only take? How much should we hurt and come back when others purposely or even go out of their way to hurt us? I have been asked this question many times over the years as I work with people suffering from what I call spiritual PTSD. It is why I wrote the article “When is it Time to Leave Your Church?” In that article I gave four ways to know:

  1. You Dread Going/Have Lost Passion
  2. You Feel Like You Don’t Belong
  3. Spiritual Shaming
  4. Differing Theology

While these don’t exactly work with every person we interact with, they do offer a base guideline. If you dread seeing someone, or they make you feel like you don’t belong it is probably a good idea to get away from them. They may be toxic, or your personalities may just clash too much. Either way, it would likely be better to stick to being acquaintances or stop contact with them.

Likewise, if they are shaming you for any reason, or want to argue constantly they can drag you down spiritually and emotionally, which drags us down physically as well. As Christians we are to mourn with those that mourn, but we are also to rejoice with those that do rejoice! (Mosiah 9:40 RAV, 189 OPV; Romans 12:15)

Living without Resentment

For me, I think it comes down to living without resentment. I opened this article with Jesus telling Peter to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). In a revelation to Joseph Smith Jr. the Lord expanded on this:

“And as oft as thine enemy repent of the trespass wherewith they have trespassed against thee, thou shalt forgive them unto seventy times seven; and if they trespass against thee and repent not the first time, nevertheless thou shalt forgive them; and if they trespass against thee the second time and repent not, nevertheless thou shalt forgive them; and if they trespass against thee the third time and repent not, thou shalt also forgive them; but if they trespass against thee the fourth time thou shalt not forgive them but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord; and they shall not be blotted out till they repent and reward thee four fold in all things wherewith they have trespassed against you. And if they do this, thou shalt forgive them with all thine heart.” -Doctrines of the Saints 61c:34-40 (DaC 95:7c-e CoC, 98:40b-45a CJCLdS)

At first glance this may seem like a contradiction as first we are told to forgive them 490 times, then just four times. What changes? the first 3 times we turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). The fourth time we take it to the Lord. This is not something we must do alone. Yet we must still forgive the 490 times as if they repent, we must forgive them again (Doctrines of the Saints 61c:40). If we are harboring resentment in our hearts, we cannot do this. We must let go of our anger and hate and look at everyone the same way God does, with the potential for teshuvah.

Perception vs Reality

When we look at the teachings of Jesus one thing I find interesting about the Savior’s interactions with people is that we seem to read our emotions into what He does. Bitter, contentious people see him as “putting people in their place” when He talks. Loving people see him as a loving teacher. I’m very sarcastic so I see him as very sarcastic, and even humorous in his interactions with the people out to get him. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, as long as we are reading the scriptures to correct ourselves and not others.

And that is the point of all of this. We can walk away from toxic people and still love them. We can keep ourselves safe while still honoring the opinions of others. Clearly, we need to stand up for others if someone’s opinion is that a person or group of people shouldn’t exist. But in normal interactions, sometimes people assume too much and that keeps us apart.

Line in the Sand

So where do we draw the line? Keep in mind that for Jesus being crucified was his middle ground. He didn’t force all of us into heaven, nor damn us all to hell (John 3:16-17). He asked us to pick up our crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Yet he also said that our burdens would be light (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus died knowing full well that we didn’t know what we were doing, and that he had power over death. We didn’t kill him, he gave up the ghost and returned on his own. To us the crucifixion was and is horrific, yet Jesus is God. It was not more than He could handle. Likewise, we should not take on more than we can handle. We cannot allow others to hurt us, even after they are long gone.

Let carrying our crosses, our crucifixions, be our middle ground, not our death march. Love everyone, and draw lines to stay safe from toxic people. Genuinely forgive others and don’t let them harm you again. As we move forward in our relationships with those around us, we should ask ourselves, “can I come back from what this person is putting me through?” Yes, with God we can do anything, that doesn’t mean God requires us to do everything. We must walk away before we get to a point where we cannot let got of our resentment. At one point when they were trying to kill him, Jesus left (Luke 4:28-30). We too can leave toxic situations. In doing so we are not only protecting ourselves, we are being the person they need us to be, allowing the light of Christ to shine in the darkness, giving them a way home.

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