Just like doing dishes, forgiveness can be unpleasant in the moment, but eventually, the outcome is helpful to yourself and others.
OK, maybe that was a silly metaphor. But if you think of forgiveness in the same way as doing the dishes, it can transform the negative connotations surrounding forgiveness. Forgiving others feels like it would be so much easier to just stack up in the sink, getting nastier and higher as you hide from it. But as you actually wash them, slowly the stack gets smaller and your burden lighter.
Yes, forgiving someone who has wronged you is way harder than doing the dishes — and that’s coming from someone who would do anything to avoid washing the dishes — But it’s even more worth it when it’s done.
A 2010 study done by the Fetzer Institute called Survey of Love and Forgiveness in American Society, found that, “Sixty-seven percent of Americans agree that the US population is composed of generally forgiving people, but 58% also agree that there are instances where people should never be forgiven.”
Why should people be refused of the chance to be forgiven? Now, before I receive hate for this comment, I would like to quickly add my testimony to that of Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he said, “To forgive is not to condone. We do not rationalize bad behavior or allow others to mistreat us because of their struggles, pains, or weaknesses. But we can gain greater understanding and peace when we see with a broader perspective.”
I have struggled to forgive those who have done me wrong, who have mistreated or bullied me or my family and have found forgiveness to be difficult; but I can still say it is worth it. Can I say that I trust these same people as I have in the past? No, I cannot. But I find that as we forgive, we are eased of a burden.
During this time of civil unrest, where there are citizens fighting for equality, it is easy to slip into hatred. Because of the murder of George Floyd and many other Black men and women who died at the hands of police officers, it is easy to have anger and hatred for the police. While I do not condone the unjust acts performed by these officers, I feel if we choose to never forgive these people, or even those who mistreat us personally, we are only hurting ourselves.
These people have to deal with the crimes they have committed. Hopefully, they receive the punishment they deserve through the criminal justice system. But if we decide not to forgive them, to hate them until we die, we are the only ones who are impacted by our hate. I hope these people realize they need to change, but having such bad feelings stuck with us forever will only allow hatred to fester and get as gross as the leftover lasagna stuck on the plate in the sink, still piling up with dishes.
Maya Angelou once stated, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
It is sad to say, but being mistreated is something that bonds us as human beings. Why can’t forgiving others be another thing we have in common?
“When we have experienced an injustice, we may be quick to say, ‘That person did wrong. They deserve punishment. Where is the justice?'” Elder Duncan said. “We mistakenly think that if we forgive, somehow justice will not be served and punishments will be avoided.”
These people will receive their justice whether that be through the justice system, in their own time of self-realization or when they meet their Creator. When we do not allow ourselves to forgive, those hurting us continue to win, having a hold on how we feel. We allow ourselves to learn from our own actions and from those who have wronged us. As we understand from those who have hurt us, we can learn how to handle situations better. We can decide to be better people.
“Opportunities to listen to those of diverse religious or political persuasion can promote tolerance and learning,” said Russell M. Nelson, president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As we practice forgiveness in our daily lives, we can ease our own burdens and make our stack a little smaller. Forgiveness is not easy. It is a daily workout, with some elbow grease. The first step is allowing yourself to have the desire to forgive. Having the awareness to know what they did was wrong and we cannot change it, but what we can change is preventing hatred from hurting us.
Hatred should not be our drive for change. Our drive should be finding ways to be better — and isn’t that what we are fighting for, ways to be better people? Then change should be driven by passion, love and forgiveness. When we let those dirty dishes linger, the way we treat people becomes as dark as the burned cheese stain at the bottom of the pan.
Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”
How do we do it? Something that is so difficult can be simplified but will take time. We are human. We know humans make mistakes. If we remember this, a little pressure is lifted, allowing us to see that they too are trying every day. People falter. People feel guilt. We can slowly decide that maybe it’s time, to do a dish daily, to get closer and closer to a clean sink.
Slinging the washrag over your shoulder, you begin spraying the rest of the sink, as the freshly clean dishes stand in their rack next to you. You sigh, relieved to no longer have the smell of old food hit you as you walk in the door; that nasty reminder you have things that need to get done. Your shoulders feel lighter. You walk away, your head a little higher.