You know I don’t like to get too serious, or too religious (or too anything, really), but I heard this talk a few weeks ago, and it stuck with me. I thought: YES. I agree with these things. We would all be a lot happier if we lived like this. This is terrific advice for all human beings, myself included. And since a lot of human beings visit my website, I thought I would post it here.
The talk, called “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” is about forgiving one another and not holding grudges and, in general, just not being resentful jerks. You know how sometimes we’re resentful jerks? Well, we shouldn’t be. That’s the gist of it.
Now, the thing is, the talk was given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (he is German, but nice), a member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That makes him a Mormon. In fact, it makes him one of the top Mormons. Most of you reading this aren’t Mormon, maybe aren’t into the whole “religion” or “God” thing at all. And that’s fine. The counsel Uchtdorf gives about how to live your life is common-sense, gut-instinct, how-could-anyone-argue-with-this? kind of stuff. One of the reasons he gives for living this way boils down to “because Jesus said so” — but even without that angle it is sensible advice.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that you’ll be a lot happier letting go of negative feelings than you will dwelling on them.
I’ve freely abridged and condensed the talk below, though I encourage you to read the whole thing here. Oh, and I bolded the parts that I liked best, so if you’re in a big hurry, you could just read those. (Why are you in such a hurry, though? My goodness, slow down!)
And before you point it out: Yes, I need to work on this too, SO SHUT UP.
“The Merciful Obtain Mercy”
By Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Strained and broken relationships are as old as humankind itself. I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment.
Of course, we know this is wrong. The doctrine is clear. Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions. We must repent, and we must be willing to forgive others. Jesus taught: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable — when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when OTHERS judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.
But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said that those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable.” The moment we judge someone else, he explained, we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin. Refusing to forgive is a grievous sin.
This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters.
I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of NOT JUDGING OTHERS with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
We must recognize that we are all imperfect. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy — to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made?
How can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?
Is this difficult to do? Yes, of course. Jesus said it is easy to love those who love us; even the wicked can do that. But Jesus Christ taught a higher law. His words echo through the centuries and are meant for us today: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
My dear brothers and sisters, consider the following questions as a self-test:
Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
Do you secretly envy another?
Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: stop it!
In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone” (John 8:7).
Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.
Let us be kind.
Let us forgive.
Let us talk peacefully with each other.
Let us do good unto all men.
Let us return good for evil. Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us.
Remember: in the end, it is the merciful who obtain mercy.
There is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect. The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way. Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.