Week 86: "How can we really forgive and forget when we feel that fellow church members have made poor decisions for our church or treated us poorly?"

Question: How can we really forgive and forget when we feel that fellow church members have made poor decisions for our church or treated us poorly?

Response 1: Marian English

When Christ Jesus was asked if we should forgive seven times, his answer was decisive. “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven” (Matt 18:22 The Message).  But when the baggage of hurt seems as heavy as  cement, how do we forgive?  

An incident years ago gave me a crash course in forgiveness. Two fellow church members had taken opposing sides on an issue concerning the church. Their disagreement escalated into criticism. It hurt, and I tried to forgive for I loved them both, but the feud raged on and church decisions were being influenced by it. To add to the burden, a loved relative was seriously ill.  

One night I awoke in despair. So with the Bible, Science and Health and other writings of Mary Baker Eddy, I found a quiet room alone where I could pray. The first glimmer of hope came in a passage recommending that we fix our attention on what Christian Science teaches instead of what others are doing, and trust God to take care of the rest. (See No & Yes 7: 21-2) A basic point in Christian Science is the healing power of the Christly law to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves.              

I had already learned that forgiveness based on personal friendship is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t heal. The hurt just keeps popping up in unguarded moments like an annoying tune stuck in your head. Forgiveness resting on divine Love, Principle, instead of personality changes things.  In a moment of head-bowed, tear-filled humility I remembered the example of Jesus on the cross, who meekly appealed to his Father to forgive those who had put him there.  The healing that followed changed the world.

Suddenly God’s great love became so real to me that I could feel its warmth. The mental turmoil vanished and I was free. The next morning to my great joy, my relative was well and acknowledged that Christian Science had healed her.  That same day the feud no longer impressed me and it soon faded away altogether. I knew other church members were praying, too, and  decisions gently became based on united prayer instead of divided opinions.             

When we feel hurt or disappointed we can remember that divine Love guides, but  our thought must move. It’s hard to steer a parked car. Every effort to replace unsettling thoughts with spiritual love lifts us nearer the healing altitude of that beloved prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Then we feel the powerful peace of loving our brother just as God loves us.    

Response 2: Kevin Graunke 

A good friend of mine shared with me a unique thought on forgiveness—one that goes way past just letting go of anger or resentment. He lifted this thought to the level of complete spiritual healing: “Forgive, and then forget that you have forgiven.”  

Talk about wiping the slate clean! Being able to joyfully forgive someone so completely that, ultimately, we don’t even remember what we’ve forgiven, means actively valuing our fellow church members as healers together with us in this “greatest and holiest of all causes” (see Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 177).

This perspective awakens within us a much deeper sense of what church is about, and our own place in it. When we ask our Father-Mother God to help us forgive someone’s angry words or hurtful actions, it gives us the humility to stop pushing or justifying our own point of view, as well. It helps us to replace self-will with a pure readiness to follow in whatever direction God points out.

There’s such relevant, abiding value today in the Rule for Motives and Acts, which Mary Baker Eddy has given in the Church Manual, especially her clear affirmation of how Christian Scientists reflect the “sweet amenities” [desirable qualities and gentleness] of divine Love: “in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness” (Manual, p. 40).  

No matter how badly our fellow church members may miss the mark; how far they push things, or how “wrong” their decisions look to us, there’s one thing these errors can never take away: the “sweet amenities” of our own joy of forgiving and forgetting. We don’t have to wait until we’re asked for forgiveness—that may not even happen—we can give it freely, right now, without question.   

This Christlike quality of spontaneous forgiving is something Mrs. Eddy embraced so completely. She did not fire back in resentment against those who maliciously persecuted her work in bringing her discovery of Christian Science to the world.  She once wrote, “no person can commit an offense against me that I cannot forgive” (Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 19).

In my own branch church work, I’ve had so many opportunities to follow her example—to remind myself that we are all working for the same goal, in one sacred Cause.The enemy isn’t each other; it never is. It’s the belief that there’s a divisive evil power opposed to God. True brotherliness and charitableness spread the healing balm of Christ on every wound this evil belief might inflict.    

I’m convinced that if each church member truly loves and values one another—forgiving and then forgetting that we’ve forgiven—we’ll find our churches overflowing with the “sweet amenities” of divine Love!  

  1. Amen! Thanks soooo much for sharing!

  2. It's hard to steer a parked car! This remark took me to the current LS where S&H speaks of divine power steering.....and it came to me that our branch church is not a "parked car." For the first time we broke away from what we usually do---and had our first Spanish lecture. A fresh experience for all of us. And, as someone in my nineties, don't want to be a "parked car" either. Our Lesson-Sermons are not parked cars either.

  3. Yup. We don't have to look any further than to our own branch church members to find opportunities to practice being Christian. And think of the potential unifying and harmonizing effect it brings to our efforts to let Christ-healing bless our communities thru our Church services, Sunday School, Reading Room, and lectures.

  4. Good question and I'm grateful for the healing ideas. A question that arises in me is from the last para here where it states ".... if each church member truly loves and values one another --" We can hope that this is an ongoing church activity of inclusiveness in our CS churches. Sometimes open communication is hard but necessary for true healing and forgiveness. It's not easy to value one or some that may hold a different view than you or hold a different view of the majority of a branch. It can seem as though those few who hold a differing viewpoint may become ostracized or criticized behind the scenes. So, yes, forgiveness is important but so also is tolerance in the very midst of an issue that needs resolving, tolerance so that those who may hold a different view of an issue or have a different vision of church aren't subtly put edged out and made to feel unwelcome by the behind the scenes talk and politicking. That's how branch churches shrink. How can we hope to draw in the stranger that way? They might have a totally different vantage point that we may need to badly hear. So, it's really important to really truly value all, even though some of the "all" may differ from you or the majority in the church. Those few with their contributions are just as precious as the majority.

  5. Great answers to the issue that is hardest for me as a Christian Scientist to understand. How could

    This is an important questions: How could Christian Science church members EVER be divisive? Aren't we taught that we have the mind of Christ? Believe me, I have done my share of "nonsense" in church and I am always startled to hear myself voicing less than grace.
    "The enemy isn’t each other; it never is. It’s the belief that there’s a divisive evil power opposed to God. True brotherliness and charitableness spread the healing balm of Christ on every wound this evil belief might inflict". Thank you, Kevin, truer words have never been spoken. I appreciate the question and the answers even more.

  6. Thank you for these helpful answers. I like this to put hurt feelings equal to baggage. As you said Marian, it is this feeling of the presence and power of Love that makes one able to let go, that allows one to feel, that no hurt, no loss has ever occured and thereby enables to forgive. For that reason I started to understand, that nothing blesses me more than to love my enemies, because it has made me to really move forward and find my relationship to Love, who has and knows no enemies. Finally I didn't even felt anymore as if there was something to forgive, there was only this feeling of love. I'm sure there will be more lessons to learn to forgive, it is not done for ever by one occasion, it is an ongoing opportunity to learn to love and to raise higher and higher. But having felt already once this warm, liberating, uplifting feeling of Love right where hate has seemed to be, encourages and inspires already for the next demonstration.

  7. One time during a church business meeting, when a harsh criticism of me was made as an aside and loud enough so that I could hear it and know who said it, I heard and obeyed a simultaneous angel thought - to love and know that only Love is present. That love immediately erased my knowledge of who made the remark and then erased my remembrance of what was said. However, I remember that the incident occurred, I guess so that I can recall how effective it was to hear and remember the angel thought instead of recording and playing back what was not at all representative of Christian Science or its adherent. It felt to me as though my fellow church member wanted to be loved. Sadly, there are some who seem to cherish resentments -- and it is that resentment holds them fast in their seats and silent during Wednesday testimonies.

  8. It is not so hard to love as a Christian---a Christian Scientists, is it? Even in church work there are those who want to be recognized and loved for who they are---and who want their ideas to be valued. It is loving that brings good decisions to the table and creates progress. It is LOVE that forgives, Love acknowledges the value in each of us. After all, we, all of us, are God's children. Before entering any church meeting, let us step back and let the Christ go in and be seated before us. In fact that has worked for me and brought wonderful outcomes not only in church work, but in other areas of volunteer work in my community. Ann Botts, CA

  9. EXACTLY the question I am asking! Thanks, divine Mind, for answering before I called and then leading me to that answer.

  10. "It's hard to steer a parked car"—very useful point in re-evaluating our own point of view. And the "Rule for Motives and Acts," what a basis for prayer in any situation. Thanks Marian and Kevin.

  11. Thanks Kevin and Marian, as the Clerk of my church sometimes I feel I am in the middle of so many conflicts. Recently I became so unhappy and discouraged that I wanted to leave the church. Wow, what a wake up call that was for me--I dug into my books and would not let go of my effort until I felt a renewed sense of my true love for church. The study brought so much joy and appreciation for what CS stands for and what Eddy has given to humanity. Also, I realized how important it is for me to stand porter in my thinking. It was a true lesson of forgiving those who were having the conflicts and knowing that I was untouched with anything that would take away my love of church. "Forgive and forget" what a great motto! Thanks again.

  12. Forgiving is a form of bearing true witness in favor of my neighbor, seeing sinless spiritual identity in place of a sinning mortal, even (and especially) when neighbor has erred. No matter how egregious the infraction, It is possible to stand planted on this fact stated in Science and Health: "...Science is working changes in personal character as well as in the material universe." Not I, but divine Science, at every moment, is working changes. Changes that are not my province to imagine or require before forgiving my neighbor.

  13. Thank you for clearly and lovingly addressing this question.

    Before there were Christian Science branch churches, Laura and Victoria Sargent were abruptly dismissed from the Presbyterian Church when its pastor learned of their affiliation with what he thought Christian Science to be. Informing Mrs. Eddy of their dismissal, Victoria Sargent received the following reply:

    "To Victoria Sargent: Put away all selfishness out of your thought such as thinking you have been wronged or any sense of ingratitude or injustice from others. Bury it out of sight forever, and let love pour in where that has seemed to be. Forgive as you expect to be forgiven. M. B. Eddy"*

    I have loved knowing how Mrs. Eddy responded to Victoria Sargent's concern, and it has given me solid guidance through the years. For me, it is not always easy to follow this instruction; but knowing that it is scientifically correct helps me to do so. I hope this quote will be helpful to others, as well.

    *"Victoria H. Sargent and Laura E. Sargent - A Biographical Sketch" by Chester C. Muth, C.S.B., pp. 12-13.

  14. Reading through these comments have helped me to see that we are Christians only as we truly live the words "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" and we do not have to be asked to forgive before we can forgive, because it is an unconditional forgiveness, therefore there is nothing to wait for to forgive. We can forgive right now. What a freeing thought!

  15. No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves...Ojibwa Indian saying

  16. Thank you so much for these answers and comments. As you can see from the date I have just come across this question and how grateful I am to be led to it today when I am fighting with this very problem. What is also so good is to know that it is not just me feeling like this - error is coming to the surface to be seen and destroyed and the honesty of all your comments is helping to lift me out of the 'it must be only me' feeling. An article many years ago comes to mind when the writer said ' It's not whose right but what's right'. Let's know that what's right will be revealed to all of us harmoniously.

  17. Maybe there's an opportunity for a higher sense of forgiveness. If we give up any sense of ego apart from God and recognize that we can never be separated from Him, we won't have any fear or belief that we can be harmed by another's actions. If we recognize that God is responsible for His church, we won't have any fear about outcomes. Then, we're left with a realization that everything in God's universe is complete and harmonious and that our only responsibility is to see and demonstrate this ourselves. We aren't in danger and neither is our church! Forgiveness, then, is more of a sense of love for our fellow-man and a desire for him/her to be free of a false sense. Look at the experience of Moses who wandered in the wilderness much longer than necessary. He didn't need this but evidently the Israelites did need it. Even more is the example of Jesus who forgave those that put him on the cross. He wasn't worried about the outcome but he must have foreseen the terrible sense of guilt and remorse that his persecutors would eventually face when they realized what they had done.

  18. This is my first visit to our website and I was lead to read the answers to this question. I joined the Mother Church when I was sixteen, I believe. That was many, many years ago. I was anticipating my first membership meeting. It was a devastating experience! I witnessed some exchanges over issues that I could not believe. I could not understand how Christian Scientists could speak to each other as some of these members did that evening. My Sunday School teacher was excellent. She became first reader at the Mother Church a little later. She tried to explain to me what was happening and how God was really in charge and that I should hold to Love is reflected in Love and know that God's thoughts would come to light. I tried, but I never went back. I went on to the university and lived in several other states after that. More recently, I attended a lecture at a church where I am living now I found a couple of people to be warm and loving, but overall felt that I was being watched and "evaluated" by many others. I left my name for a call, but never received one. I never went back. As you see, I have wrestled with this for far too long. So reading tonight the answers here have helped me tremendously. I attended each service with high hopes, but now I know where my thinking belongs, regardless of what seems to be happening around me. Thank you so much. I will be tuning in more often!