Coming to forgiveness can be a process! Sometimes there’s something someone has done to us that seems so big, and so bad, that we can’t imagine ever being able to forgive.
Perhaps the idea of forgiveness might seem intellectually worthwhile; but at a heart level, we aren’t yet ready to let go and forgive. It’s at these times we can ask God to forgive the person for us.
That’s what I had to do with my parents.
As a child I was the victim of their sexual, physical and ritualistic abuse, for which they ultimately had their rights of parenthood removed. I knew from reading the writings that the standard was that I must “instantly forgive”, and I wanted to be obedient. I just didn’t know how. Coming to that place required a lot of little steps; and a LOT of understanding of the Bahá’í Writings on the purpose of life; the nature of tests and difficulties; justice etc.
When I took my question to the House of Justice they said:
As a devoted believer you are urged to strive to develop forgiveness in your heart toward your parents who have abused you in so disgraceful a manner . . . (Universal House of Justice to this author, 9 September, 1992)
You’ll note the date of this letter was 1992; and it wasn’t until 2010 that I was finally able to let it go and forgive them completely.
In the meantime, I was comforted knowing that I could “strive to develop forgiveness in my heart”.
The heart is the place where God resides, and He wants us to sanctify it for His descent.
In the Hidden Words alone, there are 37 references to the heart which teach us something about God’s desire to live there. Here are a couple of my favourites:
In the first one, Baha’u’llah tells us He’s given us everything except our hearts, which He made for His beauty and glory. He sees that we’ve given it to other things, including our hurt and anger, and whenever he found them there, He left, concealing our secret and desiring not our shame!
All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory; yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved. Notwithstanding I have concealed thy secret and desired not thy shame. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 27)
Because of this, we may never recognize that while we harbour unforgiveness, we can’t have God’s love too.
In the second one, Baha’u’llah says friend and foe can’t dwell in the same heart – or in this case, our love for him, and bitterness towards those who have hurt us. He’s asking us to cast out one, so we can have the other:
Ponder awhile. Hast thou ever heard that friend and foe should abide in one heart? Cast out then the stranger, that the Friend may enter His home. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 26)
All of this is helpful in advancing us along the process of forgiveness.
I was also comforted knowing that I could pray for my parents.
As I learned from the Báb:
Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense! (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 94)
Obviously I wanted forgiveness for myself; so I recognized I had to ask forgiveness for them, and I did.
God can see our sincerity. He knows what’s in our hearts, and when we take one step towards becoming more in line with His teachings, He will take it from there; and start the healing and forgiveness process.
Here are two prayers you can use to ask God to forgive others:
O God, my God! Lowly, suppliant and fallen upon my face, I beseech Thee with all the ardor of my invocation to pardon whosoever hath hurt me, forgive him that hath conspired against me and offended me, and wash away the misdeeds of them that have wrought injustice upon me. Vouchsafe unto them Thy goodly gifts, give them joy, relieve them from sorrow, grant them peace and prosperity, give them Thy bliss and pour upon them Thy bounty. Thou art the Powerful, the Gracious, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Will and Testament, p. 19)
O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals of this Dispensation. Therefore, O Thou kind Lord, accept the request of this Thy servant at the threshold of Thy singleness and submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace, because this son hath arisen to render Thee service and is exerting effort at all times in the pathway of Thy love, Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Forgiver and the Kind! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 64)