Holding resentment and anger toward another festers in your heart and chokes out what happy seeds you may try to plant there. As long as you have bitter feelings for another, you cannot be truly happy. Likewise, when you feel shame or guilt for your own actions, it’s impossible to feel the light and happy feeling of contentment because your guilt shadows you like an overcast day.

Those of the Jewish faith have a wonderful tradition that it is worthwhile to emulate. Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The Days of Awe are those days following Rosh Hashana when the book of life is opened and God writes within them regarding you, until Yom Kippur, when the book is sealed. During this time an individual is encouraged to reflect upon their behavior during the past year and to seek forgiveness and make restitution where possible. This is a lovely tradition that, should we adopt a form of it, could bless and enrich our lives.

We have all been offended by someone at one time or another. A few years ago I fell into a disagreement with a Church leader. Heated words were spoken, feelings were hurt and I was left feeling torn down and defeated. Hardness toward this person filled my heart, a person I was supposed to respect. Instead, my anger began to color and shape my feelings until all I could see and think of was how I had been wronged. For quite some time I felt very little happiness, contentment or even peace. Everything I felt was tainted by these hard feelings.

I went to my father-in-law for counsel. He listened quietly while I passionately described what had happened and how I had been wronged. When I finally finished with a plea to know what I should do, he simply smiled and said “You need to ask for forgiveness. Pray for him, but repent of your own part.”

I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t done anything wrong, after all. Nevertheless, I went home and pondered what he had told me. I turned it around and around in my mind, looking at it from every angle. Finally, in a moment of clarity, I understood that even if I had originally not done anything wrong, I had continually sinned against this leader in my heart and mind every time I sought to bring him down in order to lift myself up.

In Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament, it says “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecc. 4:10.) While holding so tightly to my own pride, I fell, alone, into my own pit of despair. It was only in offering my forgiveness in my heart, by lifting him up in my mind, that I was able to myself be lifted up and out of that awful pit.

In the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, there is a wonderful leader, King Benjamin who taught us so much about how to live a good life. Toward the end of his life he gathered all of his people together to teach them one last time. Upon hearing his final lessons, the people were so moved to change their lives, to seek forgiveness and to give it freely that they said:

“The Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent … has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. …

“And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.” (Mosiah 5:2,4)

Once I had let go of the offense that I had held onto like a prize in my heart, I breathed easier for the first time in ages. I saw the sun shining again and welcomed its warmth into my heart. I have since gone on to develop a great deal of love and respect for the leader who originally had offended me, and I have happiness in our friendship and in the wisdom he teaches me. I encourage you to set aside your own pride and to offer forgiveness too. I’ve been blessed for doing so, and I am certain you will be also.

Our New Year fast approaches, yet there is time yet to set things aright and to fill our hearts with forgiveness and charity toward one another. Use the time remaining to not only forgive those who have offended you this past year, but to seek forgiveness from your fellow man and your God, and open your heart to all the happy blessings your Father in Heaven has in store for you.

About Ali C

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