Summary: It’s easy to love those who loves us and are good to us but it can sometimes be hard to find the desire to even forgive, let alone love someone who hurts us, even inadvertently. Sometimes little things people say or do can annoy or irritate to the point where it becomes difficult for us to look past the hurt we feel. This article provides a solution to helping us overcome these spiritually defeating feelings.
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He has also told us “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10). In addition to this we’ve been instructed to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
It’s easy to love those who love us and to do good to those who are good to us, but it’s a little more difficult to forgive, let alone love someone who hurts us physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially. We usually think of someone as our enemy who deliberately seeks to harm us, especially if it’s mingled with an attitude of extreme dislike, which can manifest itself through such things as persecution, vilifying, bullying, threatening, harassing, mocking, shunning, or inciting others to despise us.
However, it can also be hard to forgive and love someone who inadvertently hurts our feelings. This most often happens when someone says some thing we either find offensive or their attitude rubs us the wrong way. In cases like this, it’s how they say something that bothers us more than what they say.
A common example of this is when two people who normally like each other, get into a disagreement that develops into a heated argument where egos get bruised, words are said in anger that wound the soul, and feelings of bitterness begin to swell up within us. It’s when someone has reached this point that they have a hard time letting go of their hurt, but until that happens it becomes difficult to find the desire to forgive, let alone love the other person.
Then there are little things that people do or say that we find annoying or irritating, and every time it happens, the more it aggravates us. These kinds of incidents have a tendency to build up, which makes them harder to ignore each time it happens. At some point, sometimes sooner than later, our irritation seeps out or even explodes onto the person whose words or behavior bothers us.
Then how do we forgive and love others during times like these?
We’ve been told that if we look at everyone we meet as being a child of God that this will change our perspective and help us be more loving towards them. However, Satan is also a child of God, but that knowledge certainly doesn’t inspire us to love him. We’ve been told that if we look at others as being our brother or sister, that this will help make it easier for us to love them, but brothers and sisters often fight and quarrel with each other. We’ve also been told that we should see others as God sees them, but exactly how does God see us?
It’s said that God is our Father and he sees us like all good fathers see their children. No matter what they do wrong, no matter how upset the father may be with them on occasion, no matter how much discipline he might administer, in the end a good father always loves his children. But that still supposes being angry at someone is acceptable behavior when that person does something we think is “wrong,” even while claiming that we still love them.
So then, how does God really see us? As mortals, we can’t fully grasp the answer to that question because we aren’t God, and until we become like him then our understanding is more like that of a child when compared to that of a parent. However, we can get a little better glimpse of how God sees us if we take a wider look at who we are and why we came here to earth.
In the pre-moral world, before the earth was even created, our Father put forth a plan that would help us to progress to become more like him. That plan called for us to experience pain, suffering, doubt, fear, and above all, to learn the difference between good and evil. The scriptures tell us that we shouted for joy upon hearing this plan (Job 38:7) but it had its downside.
In the discussion that followed, Lucifer pointed out the pitfalls of our Father’s plan which included the very real possibility that many of us would never be able to return to live with our heavenly parents ever again. Since our Father is an exalted being, and we are his children, then we lived where exalted beings lived, therefore, when we talk about returning to live with our Father in heaven, that can only happen if and when we become exalted beings ourselves, which requires much more than merely living in the celestial kingdom. It’s only when we reach the highest degree of that kingdom that we finally become exalted.
As a result of this danger, we were forced to choose between two plans, and the dispute between them became so intense that a war broke out in heaven between those who held opposing views concerning the path we should follow to become saved. Those who adamantly chose to side with Lucifer were cast out of heaven, not because they opposed our Father’s plan but because of their rebelliousness towards him, while the rest of God’s children not only chose to accept our Father’s plan but enthusiastically supported it.
At that point, none of us knew what evil was, nor did we have any inclination to sin. As such, we were all spiritually strong, as evidenced by our willingness to fight in a war that would preserve Jesus as our Savior. What that means is that each and every person who has come to this earth has already accepted the Father’s plan which depends on Jesus to save us from our sins.
Because of this, God does not see us as weak beings who are spiritually flawed and incapable of doing anything worthy of him, but rather he sees us as strong, righteous, courageous souls who have a burning desire to become glorious exalted beings who want to live forever with him. None of us came into mortality with the desire to anything different.
But before that can happen, there is much we have to learn and do in order to be prepared to receive such a high and noble position. However, what that learning requires is for us to be put through some very rigorous training that will push us to our limits.
Prior to our coming to earth, we were all fully aware of what dangers awaited us because during the war we fought in heaven both the positive and negative parts of each plan were fully discussed, argued over and defended. In that war of words, we were not fence sitters. We willingly and openly fought for the right to come here to earth and be subjected to temptations of every kind, knowing full well what we were getting ourselves into. God didn’t force any of us to come into morality. We eagerly jumped at the chance. This is what kind of people we all were, and this is how God sees us – children of his who are anxious to become like him, no matter what the cost.
In that celestial realm, we obeyed our Father without question because there was no reason to do otherwise. Back then it was easy to be righteous because love reigned supreme. We loved our Father, we loved our brothers and sisters, and we loved all of God’s creations. But, when we came to earth, all of that changed. Here we were given a mortal body that was deliberately designed to make it hard for us to love and even harder still to obey God.
From the time we are born, our natural instinct is to think of ourselves first and foremost. Babies don’t really love their parents in the sense that they care about their well-being. All of their actions, including wanting to be held, is solely for their own comfort, not to give comfort to others. Young children hold onto their parent’s hands for their own sense of security, but once they become teenagers and gain a sense of independence, they want to be free of their parent’s constraints. As adults, mortals have a natural desire to do things their way and they want to engage in activities that cater to their own desires and what makes them happy.
In this life, thinking first about the needs of others doesn’t come naturally for us, and even those who want to be righteous find themselves struggling to do what God expects. Unless we continually put forth a concerted effort to live the teachings of Jesus, we will find ourselves slipping back into the ways of the world, without any effort. It just happens automatically.
This tendency is like a heavy load we’re required to struggle under, but it’s an essential part of our training, and the stronger a spirit was before coming to earth, the heavier the burden will be that they are required to carry in this life.
But as if that wasn’t bad enough, God allows Satan to tempt us to give into the natural desires of our mortal bodies, which desires are antithetical to the laws of God. Although we have the choice whether to follow the ways of the devil or follow the direction of the Holy Ghost, yet it is more natural and much easier for us to follow Satan than to follow God.
However, all of this is by design of a heavenly Father who loves his children and wants to see them succeed in becoming exalted beings. Therefore, God expects us to struggle in overcoming this tendency to do wrong. It’s part of what we need to go through in order to learn how to become like our Father in heaven.
But there’s more to it than that. As spirit children living in the perfect world of heaven, we had character flaws that weren’t apparent. However, it’s almost impossible to correct flaws that we don’t know we have, therefore, it’s by putting us through the stress of adversity that those flaws become evident, which then allows us the opportunity to correct them. It’s in this way that we are able to become perfect to the same degree that our Father in heaven is perfect. For this reason, instead of God seeing us as being full of weaknesses, imperfections, and character flaws, he sees us as courageous beings who willingly chose to go through this kind of rigorous, challenging, and demanding course of learning.
This is why when we get angry, jealous, prideful, impatient, egotistical, or engage in other unholy and impure behavior, God doesn’t see a wicked person who has no desire to behave any differently, but rather he sees a strong, courageous child of his struggling to move forward under the tremendously heavy load they’ve been called to carry.
Of course, some do better at this than others, and there are those who don’t even try to fight against the desires of the natural man. Instead, they seem perfectly content to indulge in the things the world offers. However, God not only understands this tendency, but was well aware that this was going to happen, especially knowing the kinds of character flaws that existed in some of his children. Since we didn’t know we had these flaws, we had to learn about them for ourselves, which knowledge comes from the trials of adversity that we are put through.
The war in heaven was fought primarily over the issues of choices. Under God’s plan, we were free to make bad choices, which would cause us to suffer negative consequences, but that’s how we would learn what our character flaws were. Under the Father’s plan, we would have the opportunity to correct them, but under Lucifer’s plan, no one would ever suffer negative consequences because he would force all of us to make only good choices. However, this would limit what we would be able to learn and it would also deny us the opportunity to overcome our character flaws. Under God’s plan we would be rewarded according to the choices we made, while under Lucifer’s plan, we would all be given the same reward regardless of what we did.
In this life we can engage in risky behavior that can result in broken bones, illness, or other serious forms of harm, but rather than this being a terrible thing, it’s part of the learning process that the Master Teacher is well prepared to use to our advantage. As the saying goes, we can either learn the easy way or the hard way, but either way we’re learning. For this reason, God doesn’t look at our failings as proof that we are bad people, and neither does he look with distain on our weaknesses, but rather he sees us as a student who is struggling to learn life’s lessons and during that process he is constantly there to give us all the help we need to succeed. But the choice is ours as to how well we want to learn those lessons.
What we often forget, even while saying it, is that this life is not all there is to our existence. In fact, it is so short that the apostle James likens its duration to that of a vapor. (James 4:14). When we die our learning hasn’t come to an end, but continues, where we will build upon the things we have learned from the experiences we had here in mortality.
While i this life, it’s as though we’re looking through a dark glass where we can only see part of the whole picture, but in the next world we will see things much more clearly and as they really are. (see1 Corinthians 12:12). In this life we make excuses for the things we do wrong, but in the next life we will have a bright recollection of all our guilt (Alma 11:43) and have restored to us the good we’ve done as well as the bad (Alma 41:3-4). Some may refer to this as a punishment, but in reality, it is part of our learning process.
The Lord has said “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16,17). Christ paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind, but repentance is what allows the atonement of Christ to make amends for our sins without fully having to suffer for them. In other words, repentance lessens the suffering we face. This is what we call God’s mercy.
But those who don’t repent of their sins in this life must suffer for them in the next life, because for the unrepentant it’s as though no redemption had been made (Mosiah 16:5). But their suffering is the means by which they learn, and in the end, their sins will be forgiven because of the atonement Christ made for them. However, their sins will be forgiven only after they have paid the utmost farthing (Matthew 5:26). Thus, it is in suffering – one way or another – that everyone will have their sins forgiven. What this does is allows our Father to provide all of his children with a degree of glory, either in the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial kingdom.
We must remember that God loved the world – and that includes everyone in it – so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die to save even the worst sinner. He didn’t pay the penalty for the sins of just those who believe on him; but he paid the price for everyone’s sins! To fully appreciate what that means, even those who go to the lowest degree of heaven will enjoy a part of heaven’s glory. If there were any whose sins weren’t forgiven by Christ’s atonement then they would “become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Nephi 9:9). The scriptures refer to this place as outer darkness, where there is no glory.
Even the most vile person we know will someday become a person capable of inheriting a degree of glory. But whatever glory we obtain will happen after we have been refined through the fire of great testing and suffering, but it is through such experiences that we are able to have exposed and repaired our weaknesses and imperfections. For those who come unto Christ, repent of their sins, and endure to the end in keeping the commandments of God, our suffering will not be as great because of availing ourselves of the power of Christ to perfect us,which is what will allow us to attain the full glory that God himself possesses.
On the other hand, those who choose not to take advantage of the mercy Christ offers, will face a different kind of suffering that doesn’t provide them with the same sanctifying and perfecting power. Although, in the end, they too will receive a degree of glory, it will be much less than what they could have had.
It is needful to remember that we all once shouted for joy and fought a war for the express purpose of coming here to endure trials of great spiritual stress. We are all in this learning experience together and none of us can successfully make it through this challenging course by ourselves, therefore we all need each other’s help. When we see someone struggling (or perhaps not even trying to struggle) to improve their character flaws, instead of criticizing them, we need to do what we can to help and assist them, just as God is likewise trying to help all of us. And in so doing, we learn how to become more like our Father in heaven.
To illustrate this principle, when a five-year old child tries to carry a ten-pound gallon of milk, we don’t belittle them because they’re struggling with it. We understand why they can’t do it as well as someone who is much older and stronger. In the same way, when we falter because of the weight we’ve been given to bear, rather than belittling us, our Father in heaven encourages us to keep trying. And when we fall down and fail in our efforts, he encourages us to get back up and keep going. If we want to become like our Father in heaven, then this is how we too should look at others when we encounter their faults and weaknesses.
C.S. Lewis, expressed it this way in his book, “The Weight of Glory”: “Apparently, this is our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off from… When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the rest of creation is obedient, then we will put on this glory of which nature is only the first sketch. Nature is only the image, the symbol… There is no such thing as ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit….Next to the blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented before your senses… Meanwhile, the cross comes before the crown. The load or weight or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud are broken by it. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest person you can talk to may one day be a creature you would be strongly tempted to worship…We should conduct all of our dealings with one another with the awe and circumspection that is proper to them.”
This is how God sees us.