Besides Easter being this Sunday, it is also Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Coming from a Jewish family that also lost one-fourth of those I loved after World War II ended, this causes me great anger. As I think of the tragedy which happened to many Jewish families, it is difficult to forgive. My grandmother’s family from Poland was wealthy and well-loved in their corner of the world. My great-grandfather, seeing the signs on the wall, took my grandmother and her siblings with his wife and left everyone from his family behind. His father gave him the money to go, but the rest did not leave. Their beautiful one-city-block home was taken over by the Nazis and they were never heard of again. I have never been able to watch concentration camp movies; they are just too painful. I would never discuss this with my children; it was just too difficult.
The task of forgiving is not an easy one. This would require me to release all of the ill thoughts, (a wish for all Nazis to be sent to a very bad place), and negative emotions, including rage, revenge, resentment, and sorrows which these thoughts provoke.
About seven years ago I learned of an organization called Children of the Nazis and Jews who started a week’s walk across Poland passing concentration camps as they walked. This came about by the posterity of WW II veterans learning through family history how their families were involved in war crimes so long ago and then reaching out to the posterity of the Jews who were affected. This took a great act of courage and forgiveness from both sides. The healing has begun from such a horrendous tragedy.
I would have loved to walk with those people. I want to be forgiving. When I feel the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life it helps me to forgive others. Forgiveness helps us to become whole when we are the recipient of unkind actions. The Atonement means that Christ took upon Him all of our sorrows and sins so we can be healed and live in peace.
As I have handed this whole unstoppable event over to my Savior who has willingly died for our sins I am no longer angry. Even with the knowledge of what happened, I am at peace.
Neal A. Maxwell, LDS Church leader said: “Ultimate hope is a different matter. It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal Resurrection and the precious opportunity provided thereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call “a perfect brightness of hope” (Neal A. Maxwell, Hope Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 1998).
Forgiving others is a complicated process and everyone has their own timeline on when they can forgive. The hardest people to forgive are the ones who are closest to you. Yet carrying anger around for the actions of another person will eat away at your soul. In most cases of forgiveness, it’s a matter of people making a mistake or misjudgment and with a sincere apology, can be forgiven.
But it is those who wrong us purposely with the intent to hurt which makes forgiveness so difficult. Those who never apologize because they feel that they did no wrong, even though you are deeply hurt by their actions, make forgiveness near to impossible. They have betrayed your trust as a friend.
But, this is where Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of the atonement helps extinguish the fire, helps stamp out the embers and even rid us of every bit of smoldering anger which gives us hope for a brighter day. Whether its family members, neighbors, close friends or accidental tragedy, forgiveness can be a relief to your soul. It can be achieved.
So start today, during this Easter season, to think about those who have offended you and let it go… Feel the peace the atonement can bring in your life and be free of the anger.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.