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Just dropping by ... Forgiveness is the mark of a true Christian

Yevet Tenney Published on 30 August 2013

Last month I wrote, “You can always tell when the Lord is trying to teach you a principle because on-task real-life on-the-job experiences come in multiples.”

Not only does He give you opportunities on how to practice, He also gives you examples of how it should be done.

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I always thought forgiveness was to be done after the fact, but developing a constant attitude of forgiveness is so much easier than trying to figure it all out when you are placed in the situation.

It’s like forgiveness aerobics. You practice them every day. First, you pre-plan your forgiveness. You see yourself as a forgiving person and do it every day. Every time you get hit with injustice, you forgive the perpetrator.

That attitude helps you to react to all the little deeds of others that wreck your day. Because you practice, it become second nature to forgive. There is no time lost in thinking, “How will I ever forgive that person?” You just naturally do it without thinking.

The other day, I was driving my husband’s big white Dodge Ram down the street in Taylor, Arizona. I stopped at the stop sign before I crossed Main Street.

It was almost dusk, and the tinted windows were extra dark. I pulled on to the street – and suddenly I saw a charcoal-gray bumper fly into the air. I realized that I had hit another vehicle. I didn’t even see him.

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My heart sank to my toes as I turned around. The car had pulled into a parking lot and was talking to a couple in a white truck, who had witnessed the accident. I knew I must talk to the driver of the little car, but I dreaded his fury.

When he saw me drive up, he left the witnesses and hurried to my truck. I opened my door and prepared for the worst. “Are you all right?” His kind voice soothed some of my fear. I said I was fine and asked him how he was. He told me he was fine.

He introduced himself as Jason Whiting and continued, “You don’t have to worry,” he said, “I’m not the kind of a person who will show up tomorrow with a neck brace.” I gratefully understood what he meant. His reassuring smile made me feel better.

We exchanged addresses. Jason called the police, talked to my insurance company and took pictures while I hunted for the necessary documents. His temperament was always tender and considerate.

He didn’t curse about his destroyed car or tell me how stupid I was to drive into the intersection without making sure there was no one in the road. He simply made the necessary arrangements, always turning back to me to make sure I was all right.

Jason offered me advice about how I could take the driving class online. I haven’t had a ticket for 30 years, and I had never had to attend driving school, so that was helpful.

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My husband came, and this young man did everything he could to make sure my husband was comfortable with the situation. They chatted about the accident while I had a tearful moment in my vehicle.

Their conversation turned to who is related to whom and chit-chat about growing-up days. Never once did this young man belittle us or bemoan the loss of his car.

The morning after the accident, Jason called me and said, “I just wanted to call and make sure you are all right.”

When the shock of the accident wore off and I had time to think about it, I suddenly realized that I had encountered a real-life true-blue Christian. He had developed the attitude of forgiveness so profoundly that he didn’t even have to think about it.

There was no space for questioning, “Can I forgive this idiot who wrecked my car?” It was already done. He saw me as a child of God, a sister with shortcomings and weaknesses, but a sister who needed compassion, not a reprimand.

It takes a true Christian to put human beings above monetary possessions, but he did it masterfully.

I know it would be different to face a tragedy like Sandy Hook or the Amish faced in October 2006 when their children were shot by a maniac.

The news told of the Amish’s complete and tender forgiveness of the killer. They even attended his funeral. Was it hard? Excruciatingly hard, but they were true Christians and were practiced in the art of forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t take away the pain of an empty chair at the table or the silence of the playroom where children used to play. Forgiveness only makes you right with God and gives you the soft heart which allows Him to step in and heal you.

It allows you to see His tender mercies and allows the sunshine of His love to fill the painful empty caverns of your heart. It allows you to let it go, and sometimes it softens the heart of the offender.

Bitterness, on the other hand, is a circle of pain that desires revenge. Every thought turns back to dark shadows of “what if” – “What if that hadn’t happened? What if that same thing happened to him? What if I could hurt him as much as he hurt me and my children?”

The list of “what ifs” goes on and on. There is no healing and no peace. It goes on forever. Every bitter thought leading back to the same bitter thought that can never be reconciled. It clouds every aspect of your life, leaving you with just dark empty memories.

Gordon B. Hinckley tells a story from the Deseret Morning News by Jay Evensen. He tells of a young man who, just for kicks, bought a frozen turkey and tossed it on the windshield of a car while it was driving down the road.

The occupant had to have surgery and metal plates put in her face. She faced years of therapy to have her life restored. It was a hideous and senseless crime.

“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.

“The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc.

Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for five years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault – the charge most fitting for the crime – he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

“According to an account in the New York Post , Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’

“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’

According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears” (“Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future,” Deseret Morning News , Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).

This too was a woman who had practiced the art of forgiveness. She cared more about human beings than she did about revenge or her own comfort. I suspect she had decided long ago to keep bitterness out of her life.

She had probably forgiven the little things 70 times seven as Christ admonishes. This habit of forgiveness gave her the strength and the willpower to forgive her attacker. In so doing, she made a huge difference in the life of that young man and countless others who have heard her story.

I am not sure I am there yet, but I am trying. The Lord has given me many examples of heroes who have chosen to forgive, and I am glad for the most recent example of the young man who was able so willingly to forgive me for wrecking his beautiful car. PD

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