A particularly slow driver ahead of me was lighting my fuse. “Come on, Grandma, find the gas pedal!” I said to myself. I begin mumbling and wondering why she couldn’t keep up with the flow of traffic, drive the speed limit, or pick a lane and stay in it. As soon as I labeled the driver, it struck me that I was a “Grandma” now, and I felt embarrassed as I thought about why that driver might be moving slower than was convenient for me: perhaps she was looking for a street or address, and was having trouble reading the too-small street signs or the numbers on the houses, perhaps she’d received bad news about a family member, maybe her doctor had told her she had an incurable disease, or she was worried about how to pay next month’s rent.
I don’t have a magic wand, but now, whenever I want my pound of flesh or expect someone to do it “my way,” I remember that epiphany. I “step” around to see the other side of a situation—and therein lies the magic. Think about what a person who has offended you might be experiencing, feeling, thinking. By trying to see life from someone else’s perspective, you will want patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding, and kindness provided for you when you aren’t yourself, when you’re struggling with circumstances, or you’re distracted, tired, overwrought. This will help you have what you need, to apply the Golden Rule–Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You. Would you want someone to hold onto a hurt, a grudge, a desire to seek revenge if you were the offender, or would you want him or her to be gracious, generous and Christ-like by turning the other cheek, showing forgiveness, love and compassion?
When someone hurts us, physically or emotionally, human nature can take over and our only thoughts are about protecting our self from further damage. Too often, we try to affix blame and carve the memory of that affront deeply in our minds, using it as a rationale for our own negative response. You may ask, “But what if the offender isn’t suffering or having personal issues that prompted her to do something hurtful? What if she is just being mean? Isn’t it only fair that I have a right to show someone how it feels to be hurt?” Simple answer: No. Using this formula, where will it all end? There’s an old saying about revenge, “If you take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, in the end the only thing you’ll have is a blind and toothless person.” This isn’t a matter of who is right and who is wrong! Charity, forgiveness and compassion—the formula for a happy life—are not tied to the rational thinking of the mind; they are tied to choices of the heart.
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman said. Whitman was not only eloquent, he was wise. If you focus on the shadows, you will never see the sunshine. When you focus on what someone has said or done to you that was hurtful, you have chosen to live in the shadows—looking back instead of turning yourself, your thoughts forward to see the sun. And there is always some sun in life, waiting to warm you and your heart.
Let the shadows go—they are insubstantial and fleeting. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “Choose well thy part.” In the Book of Mormon, Nephi, an ancient prophet, counseled, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart will be also” (3rd 13:21). This reminds us that what we focus on, the perspective and attitude we hold, will be the determining factors in how we live our lives, how we view and treat others, and, as a result, how happy and satisfied we will be.
Make choices that will add to your life in positive ways and that will create a heart filled with loving and giving treasures. Forgiving anyone for trespasses, regardless of the underlying cause, brings joy and peace and provides us with the expectation that we too can be forgiven for missteps, bad choices, and offenses by our Heavenly Father—who requires that we forgive everyone—and also by those we have offended. Preserve the eyes—they allow us to see others clearly, and shield the teeth–they help us smile and speak kind words to each other.