Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Forget it and leave it alone!

As it always is after a church conference, I have a lesson that I must learn that ties in with at least one of the amazing talks.

Someone hurt my feelings recently by calling me some very ugly things and assuming the absolute worst about my character. This person intended to get an emotional rise out of me with their words, and they achieved their goal. Though I do not know this person well at all, I was wounded and allowed myself to be upset and deeply offended. As I was standing in the kitchen over the weekend, discussing the event with a family member, I heard the spirit tell me "forget it and leave it alone". I knew it was the right thing to do, but I wanted to understand how it was unique to my situation and how it was going to make me a wiser, better person in the end. So I did what I always do when I am confused or conflicted about spiritual matters clashing with the natural man (or woman, in this case).... I prayed. A lot.

I received the first part of my answer on Sunday during Sunday School, when both of my children were sleeping in the pew with me (Andrew's snoring was incredibly distracting). You see, I was wrestling with the matter of gray area and crossing lines. What type of reaction from me would be considered crossing the line? What actions would be lumped in to that gray area that is always so dangerously close to crossing the line?

I have taken offense before, and at times it has taken me a while to let it go and fulfill the whole cycle of forgiving and moving on. But I have always managed to do so, having felt the lifted weight and the joy of extending forgiveness in the past to people who had truly hurt me. But I felt this past Sunday that the opportunity had been extended to me to realize what I might have done, or might be doing, to allow myself to be offended or put myself in a situation where I may receive a response that could cause offense.

Though it was not my intention to offend, I saw that the question I asked could have been taken in a negative way by people of a defensive nature. I also realized that my expectation of receiving a somewhat civil response was unrealistic.

Back to my answer on Sunday.... it dawned on me that forgetting people and leaving them alone can truly be part of the forgiving process.... but only after you have forgiven them and allowed the poison of your hurt feelings to leave your mind. In other words, I realized that I can avoid people who are seeking to hurt me by kindly avoiding them and no longer letting the thought of their hurtful actions stay in my mind. I took some notes to remind myself of what I felt I had learned, and I want to share them here:

1. Do not easily take offense! (this is always easier said than done, as offense is a stubborn weed that takes root and is hard to pull!)
2. Forgive those who have wronged you, but protect yourself, protect your name, and protect your family from those who seek to harm or defame you or your family.
3. Recognize when others will not receive you warmly, and prepare as best as you can to confront it righteously or make every noble attempt to ignore or avoid those who would actively seek to offend or antagonize you.
4. Do what you tell your children to do (simple, huh?):
* set boundaries
* if the boundaries are broken, do not enable negative actions by allowing hurtful people to be a part of your life

The last bit of advice ties in with a wonderful talk about letting go of grudges and extending forgiveness:

Forgive the people who hurt you, forget them, and leave them alone

This does NOT apply to people who have unknowingly hurt or offended you, and it does not apply to people who are striving to become better and who have asked for your forgiveness. This applies to people who do not see any reason to make earnest effort to make things right with you. This applies to people who are actively seeking to distress you in any way. Forgiving them will heal your spirit. Forgetting their actions will heal your mind. Leaving them alone will give you both the chance to be better people (again, this is only in cases where the person is truly not making an earnest effort to repair damage and/or is continuing to knowingly cause damage) and move on to your next set of experiences.

If at any point the person you have forgiven (and their actions you have hopefully forgotten) comes forward seeking repair, do not shut the door to them. It is not our right to make that decision. But nowhere is it stated that we must continue to endure hateful or spiteful words or actions, and nowhere is it stated that we must constantly put ourselves at the mercy of a person who seeks to be cruel to us.

So my lesson was this, forget it and leave it alone can also mean forget THEM and leave THEM alone.

I do not feel I am done learning all there is to know on this subject (thankfully most of us are still learning about it), and I hope that any comments left here will take that into account and be civil and uplifting.