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Monday, September 19, 2011

Gossip, Forgiveness, and the Power of Service

Bro Jo-

This isn't a question about dating. I'm looking for advice from a fellow Mormon about forgiveness. I hope that's okay.

My sophomore year of high school, a girl who had been my "best friend" suddenly turned on me - literally overnight. Her name will be Sarah. I honestly don't know what I did to make her act the way she did. It was all the classic "mean girl" things - spreading gossip and lies to our mutual friends, telling me I couldn't sit at lunch with them anymore, giving me the silent treatment, etc. Sarah was in my ward, and as a result, most of the young women were very mean to me. So I stopped going. She turned all of my closest friends against me and I spent the rest of sophomore year alone and quite depressed.

I have inferiority and guilt issues from abuse/neglect as a child, as well as an anxiety disorder. Things like this seem to affect me more than normal people. After Sarah did this - and after another very close friend, Doug, did a very similar thing the following summer - I found myself seriously struggling with my relationships. I went back over Sarah and Doug's actions over and over, trying to figure out what I had done to drive these people away, and couldn't come up with anything.

So I guess I decided that it was just me, people just could only stand me for so long until they inevitably left me behind. I felt like there was something deeply, innately wrong with me that kept other people from really wanting me, and those feelings showed in my behavior. I felt unable to trust people's intentions and withdrew from them, convinced that if I spent too much time around them or invested myself in them, they would abandon me, too.

It seems extreme, but I'm just telling my story.

I can't tell you how many times my mom and my therapist tried to convince me that these peoples' actions were not my fault, that it was "their problem." I wanted to believe them. I just couldn't. That, basically, was the root of all of these issues.

I'm now in my junior year and am doing much better. These issues come up occasionally, but in the last few months I have been working really hard on stretching myself, serving others, and gradually trusting others. I even have a few close friends, whereas last year I couldn't even get to that point. The Lord has been helping me a great deal.

I recently reconciled with Doug. He apologized for his actions and wouldn't let me say that any of it was my fault. It took an enormous weight off of my shoulders just to officially end that conflict and feel the peace it left. But it made me think about Sarah. I realized that I haven't forgiven her at all. I feel an enormous amount of bitterness and pain when I think about her. I don't see her in person anymore, because she moved and changed schools, but she still hangs out with many of my friends.

They practically worship her, and I resent that. I tried to reconcile with Sarah towards the beginning of this school year, but she refused to listen to me and insisted that I had deserved everything that happened (but never explained what exactly I did wrong). I'm sure she has no idea the magnitude of her actions.

Due to all my efforts with these issues, along with help from the Lord, I am beginning to truly believe that I am a daughter of God who is worthy of being loved by other people and that I am not really responsible for Sarah's actions. But without answers, reconciliation, or an apology, I find myself unable to forgive her. I genuinely want to. I don't want to carry around this burden anymore, and refusing to forgive is a sin that I don't want to be guilty of. I keep thinking of the Savior and his admonition to forgive always, and I really want to let go of this.

What steps can I take to finally forgive her?

Sorry if this was long. I can't help it.


Thanks in advance.

-Still Hurting

Dear Hurting,

Some things take time, even more time than we want them to. That's ok.

You're right to want to forgive, and you're right to keep trying. Be patient; it will happen.

I posted something once on the Facebook page about what Sister Jo says regarding service; nothing makes us feel better than being of service to others. As you work towards forgiving your friend keep looking for opportunities to serve others. I promise that your service will help you feel better and help you to forgive.

Remember the reason we're supposed to forgive others is because Christ has helped us to be forgiven. Our forgiving shows gratitude. As you continue to grow closer to the Savior you'll be better able to forgive.

You're on the right track, just keep moving forward.

When you're ready, try doing a selfless and anonymous act of service for "Sarah"; it will feel wonderful!

- Bro Jo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We just had a lesson on this subject yesterday, and what came up in class was that forgiveness is letting go - letting go of the pain, the hurt, all of the baggage that comes with holding onto what they did. It's also deciding that you won't be the victim anymore. When you hold onto the hurt and pain, you're allowing the person who hurt you to affect your life, and not for the better - you are putting yourself into the role of the victim. Which you were at one point. They DID hurt you, but when you keep yourself in that role, you are allowing them to hinder your growth as a person. I know it will be hard, I've had some hard knocks in my life that I've had to forgive - some that I did to myself - finding forgiveness within yourself for the people who hurt you will be difficult, and it will take God's help... but that IS what he is there for. He can help you move mountains, no matter how impossible it may seem at first. Hold fast, keep trying and know that God will ALWAYs love you and support you through life's trials.