Repentance and Forgiveness in Family Life.

Repentance and forgiveness seem to go hand in hand. When a person thinks of one it often leads them to think of the other as well. With repentance comes forgiveness. Each are important and essential in family life. Sometimes it seems the hardest people to forgive are the people closest to us. However, I would argue the most important people to forgive are our family members. I think it is easy to think that hard situations will just blow over or go away because it’s a family member that was involved in the situation and not just a friend or someone else. This is not the right mentality to have. We should forgive everyone, especially our family members. After all we are stuck with them for eternity. The more willing we are to repent and forgive the better each relationship within the family will become. Elaine Walton said, “Individuals and families who are able to forgive important transgressions are likely to have better emotional and physical health.” Not only do we receive the spiritual benefits of forgiving, we also will receive emotional and physical benefits as well. On the other hand, “not forgiving can lead to harm. ‘Unforgiveness’ is considered a stress reaction in response to a perceived threat, and the emotions associated with unforgiveness, such as resentment, hostility, blame, and fear, have been linked to health risks” (Walton). We may not see those side effects right away, but over the months or even years they will occur and life will be harder because of our unwillingness to forgive. By not forgiving others there will be even more problems in our lives. I believe it is important to take our time in the forgiveness process, but we shouldn’t let it get to the point where we are feeling resentment or any other harmful feelings.

Repenting After Interpersonal Transgression:

Being willing to repent for our wrongs is a difficult and even scary task. However, as Walton has said, “Repentances is a process of enhancing internal awareness and interpersonal accountability. Outwardly, the offender not only acknowledges wrongdoing but also makes reparation. Inwardly, repentance is achieved through humility and empathy, making it possible for the offenders to see themselves and those they wounded with a new perspective that is refreshing and motivating.” When a family member confesses to something and then goes through with the repentance process we should not look down on them in any way. While it may have been us that was hurt by their actions, we have a responsibility to help them to repent and correct their mistakes. They need support as much as we do through the hard times. While a family member is going through the repentance process and confessing what they have done, they will have feelings of guilt and shame. President Richard G. Scott has said this about guilt,

Elder Scott

“The ability to have an unsettled conscience is a gift of God to help you succeed in this mortal life.”

Guilt will help them through the repentance process while shame will hinder it. It is important to help them to not feel shame. “Shame involves a painful focus on self – feeling small, worthless, or unworthy: ‘I am a bad person.'” There are no bad people just bad choices. Shame is what Satan wants us all to feel as we make mistakes. We can’t let him put those feelings into our minds and hearts because they will hold us back from truly repenting.

With repentance comes an apology and change. Lazare gives a list of qualities that make up a successful apology. They are:

  1. An accurate acknowledgment of the offense
  2. An appropriate expression of regret, remorse, or sorrow
  3. A suitable offer of repayment or restitution
  4. A pledge for behavior reform to ensure that the offense is not repeated.

As each of these things are done during an apology it will be successful, but according to Lazare “the apology will fail if any of the steps is missing or inadequate.” Each step must be completed and sincere.

Similar to the apology steps the church has listed similar repentance steps each of us should follow. Those steps include:

  1. Recognize the sin. We admit to ourselves that we have done something wrong.
  2. Feel sorrow for the sin. Feeling sorrowful, we are humble and submissive before God, and we come to Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit.
  3. Forsake the sin. We stop committing the sin and pledge to never do it again.
  4. Confess. We should confess all our sins to the Lord, In addition, we must confess serious sins that might affect our standing in the Church to the proper ecclesiastical authority.
  5. Make restitution. Insofar as possible, we might right any wrong that we have done.

As we each commit to following these lists we will gain the forgiveness of others from our mistakes and we will be a changed person. Repentance is hard, but it is worth it because in the end we are making things right again and we have the ability to start over and become better people than we were before.

Forgiving an Interpersonal Transgression:

I think, depending on the circumstances, that forgiveness is just as difficult as confessing the wrong. I do believe that everything can be forgiven though. Everyone on this earth makes mistakes, some small and some very, very big. No one is perfect. Also, if we expect forgiveness of our wrongdoings from others how can we not show forgiveness towards those who have wronged us? We can’t expect forgiveness if we aren’t going to give it. “For victims, forgiveness means being released from anger and developing empathy for the offender. This implies a change of heart and a change in expectations- there will be no later recriminations or paybacks.” Forgiveness is for the person who has wronged us, but honestly it is mostly for ourselves. We deserve the peace that comes from forgiveness. So what is the best way to forgive?¬† Worthington gives a five-step process to forgiveness. Those steps are:

  1. Recall the hurt
  2. Empathize
  3. Offer the altruistic gift of forgiveness
  4. Commit publicly to forgive
  5. Hold on to forgiveness

These five steps will allow for a meaningful forgiveness that will last forever. I encourage anyone who is struggling to forgive someone to try these steps and see how they help. Keep working at them. Once you do forgive, hold on to step five really tight and don’t let it go. Keep the forgiveness you share in your heart and be willing to turn back to it as times get hard.

Repentance and forgiveness are things we probably need to be doing everyday. It is especially important for us to focus on repenting for things we’ve done wrong toward a family member and be willing to forgive family members who have wronged us. I know that repentance and forgiveness help build lasting relationships and families will come closer together as everyone works on these two areas of their lives. If you need to repent of something please, please work on it. If you have been wronged and need to forgive please be willing to take the steps necessary to forgive and to heal. We can all learn from both of these things and our lives will be changed as we apply them and actively use them each day.

Click here for a video about forgiveness.




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