I’ve been working on and studying forgiveness for years – since the very beginning of my journey of having a spouse leave the church. As I reread the book You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay this past week, I was reminded of a couple of helpful ideas when learning to forgive.
One idea that I learned from Louse Hay years ago that has helped me immensely through life is the idea that everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge and ability they have. If they knew better, they would do better.
“But, he does know better!” your brain is shouting at me, “He was raised in the gospel. He’s been to church. He’s made covenants.”
I understand your resistance to this idea – especially in relation to your spouse, and yet I still believe the statement to be true – or at least useful.
I choose to believe that he doesn’t really “know better” if he’s not doing better. We can “know” something without really “knowing” it. I think we’d all agree that I can “know” that it is painful to have a parent die, but I “know” at a completely different level once I actually have a parent die. Understanding something intellectually is different than knowing it.
When I’m learning piano, I know a song when I can play the notes in the correct rhythm. I know it better when I have it memorized. I know it still better when I add the dynamics and phrasing. But do I truly know it before I internalize it, feel it, and make it mine? There are many levels of “knowing,” and as I know better, I do better.
We make the assumption that our spouse “knows better” because of the fact that he was raised in the church, or that he served a mission, or he’s been through the temple. We sometimes project what we know onto him and think he does or should know the same things.
The truth is that he knows what he knows, and we can never fully understand that because we can’t enter his heart and mind. He is doing the best he can with the knowledge and ability he has at this time.
What does this have to do with forgiveness? Louise Hay writes, “We understand our own pain so well. How hard it is for most of us to understand the THEY, whoever they are we need most to forgive, were also in pain. We need to understand that they were doing the best they could with the understanding, awareness, and knowledge they had at that time.”
If we can choose to believe that, then we can be willing to forgive.
Louise continues, “We may not know how to forgive, and we may not want to forgive, but the very fact that we say we are willing to forgive begins the healing process.” (emphasis added)
If we want to heal – emotionally and physically – we must forgive. We must let go of the resentment, anger, hurt, and bitterness. We don’t have to know how – the atonement of Jesus Christ takes care of that – but we must be willing. God never forces things upon us. We must express that we are WILLING to forgive for the change to start.
Let that be your mantra this week, “I am willing to believe that he is doing the best he can with the understanding, awareness, and knowledge he has at this time. I am willing to forgive.” Then be patient and let God show you how.