What makes forgiveness justified?

How do we find peace and healing when someone hurts us? How do we let it go? What makes letting it go fair?

I picture deep emotional pain like a carousel. Round and round we go feeling highs and lows. Remembering the hurt, suppressing the hurt, journaling the hurt, forgetting the hurt, trying to understand the hurt, feeling angry and justified, wanting to forgive and feel peace, feeling confused and trying to understand, and around again…

Years ago my parents came to visit my husband and I for Christmas. It was a good visit but I could feel irritation brewing. I had old hurts from my mom that were surfacing and I wasn’t handling the emotions. I just kept pushing them down and trying to stay happy for the holidays.

Finally it came time to drop my parents off at their hotel for the last time before they caught their plane home the next morning. As I sat in the car next to my mom I felt the anger of 30 years of suppressed hurt bubble over. It all came out in words that I wish I could take back.

I will never forget the feeling of remorse that I had as I watched her get out of the car in pain and walk into the side door of the hotel. I felt sick inside at what I had just done to her.

I went home and sat on the couch with my husband. I told him I never wanted to do that ever again and that I was ready to forgive. Then I said, “now what? I don’t even know how.”

It’s years later and I have been through a crash course in forgiveness. I have learned from books and counselors about going through pain and feeling pain and admitting pain and writing about the pain. I have found that those things are definitely a part of the healing process- but not enough.

There is something interesting that happens when you tell someone they hurt you. Typically they will deny it, place blame to justify their actions, or agree they are at fault and ask forgiveness. Sometimes hearing them say sorry is enough, but many times the hurt is still there and it feels like it lands right back in our laps. What do we do with the pain now?

Anger feels so justified. It feels like a proactive feeling. It admits there was a wrong. Now if we keep our distance and stay angry we can say they deserved it. However, it is not a peaceful path. It does not allow the Savior to touch our lives. It is a wall and we stand behind it poisoned by our own resolve to stay that way.

I have found there is a better way. Through the years as I tried to heal the relationship between my mom and I, I found that I could say, “mom, this thing you did really hurt me.” And she would say, “yeah, I did do that. And I’m really sorry.” It was very healing. But it was confusing to feel the loss and hurt and not feel justified in being angry anymore. What do I do now with the pain established by the hurtful action or inaction?

Here is the missing piece I’ve found…

When I remember and feel the pain of something from my past I close my eyes. I see myself walking into a garden at night- it is the Garden of Gethsemane. There I see the Savior kneeling by a huge boulder. He is in pain. He is feeling exactly what I am feeling at this moment. I arrive at exactly the moment he is suffering that thing for me.

I kneel in front of Him. He takes my hands in His. He looks into my eyes with love. I feel Him take my pain away- right through my hands. I look at our hands clasped and see the pain transfer. He wanted to take it. I feel my very real pain cease. He is helping me be whole and feel peace again.

He took the pain and made things right.

At times there is nothing someone else can do to heal a wrong toward us. The best we can hope for is that they apologize, treat us better, and learn from it with us, but they can not return all that is lost. However, Christ can. When we let Him.

Let Him.