Mental health is just as important as physical and spiritual health. Being in a weak place mentally can have major consequences that can unfortunately lead us away from God’s light. I intentionally do not address the need for medication, as I am unqualified but there are other contributing factors that can affect us. The foods we eat, the activities we participate in, the friends we keep, and the routines we make all impact our mental health in substantial ways. With all the pressures and stresses of our day, it is important that we do our best to keep our minds well as much as our bodies. Forgiveness impacts that state of mind in a big way!
In his book The Divine Gift of Forgiveness, Elder Neil L. Anderson relates a difficult experience by a young woman living in Africa. She had embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ but did not feel worthy to be baptized with anger rooted in her heart. She explained that she and her younger brother were fleeing for their lives as their town was invaded by soldiers and their parents killed. She hid while they were pursued and watched as a soldier grabbed her brother, yelled at him to join them, or die, and before the boy could respond, he was horrifically murdered. She made it to the refugee camp alone where she lived for some time. Later on, she realized that the soldier who had so brutally killed her brother had ended up in the same refugee camp. This courageous woman pled for help from her priesthood leaders so that she could be worthy of baptism. With appropriate counsel and her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, she worked hard and in time was baptized, being freed of the grief and pain by calling upon the Lord for strength to forgive.
I do not know many people who have experienced such a terrible and brutal loss as this young woman did but we have all experienced grief, pain, and heartache caused by others’ actions to some degree. We do not need to compare abuses or offenses because as human beings we all know the depth of pain and suffering. Living with the consequences of such offenses can be difficult, especially when we constantly dwell upon injustice. Our holding grudges only makes us miserable. Holding onto hate and anger leads to darkness, disappointment, and bitterness which often are the gateway to the road of addiction.
When we choose to seek the Lord for help to forgive, His power will come over us and He will lift the heavy burdens from our backs and break the shackles of grief. He will chase away the darkness with His light, give rest to our souls, and gift us with the priceless gift of peace. Our minds will no longer be darkened by anger or subject to the adversary who wishes to keep us down. Forgiveness is the best gift we can give ourselves when we struggle to find the light.
Elder Jeffrey R Holland explains briefly why giving forgiveness is so important. He says, “Please don’t ask if it’s fair that the injured should have to bear the burden of forgiveness for the offender. Don’t ask if “justice” doesn’t demand that it be the other way around. No, whatever you do, don’t ask for justice. You and I know that what we plead for is mercy- and that is what we must be willing to give.” 1
Knowing that we are the recipients of the Savior’s mercy, that we are worthy to stand before Him as He grants us forgiveness, what else matters? I promise that as we fall at the feet of Jesus upon meeting Him at last, unpaid debts, harsh words and cruel abuses will not be forefront in our minds. Grant forgiveness when needed and by so doing, you will invite light and peace into your mind and heart throughout your life.
1 “I Stand All Amazed”, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 1987 Ensign