Have you ever noticed that the scriptural passage that begins “Love your enemies” ends with “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”? (Matthew 5:44-48) I believe this is so because loving our enemies is the most difficult thing we will ever learn on the path to becoming like our Father in Heaven. I understood this intellectually at age 18 but, at that time, I had never had an enemy. No one had ever despitefully used me or persecuted me (Matthew 5:44). Is it possible to “do good to them that hate you”? (Matthew 5:44) According to our Savior, that is the price of becoming “the children of [our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45).
Marriage is a union of mind, heart, soul, and body—and we are never so vulnerable in any other relationship. We are uniquely susceptible to being hurt. When we feel exposed and vulnerable and we are rejected, the pain is intense. It is not merely emotional pain. Functional MRIs of people experiencing an unwanted divorce show that it is an actual, physical pain. I felt this pain relentlessly for years. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt despitefully used and persecuted (Matthew 5:44). I tried to pray for my former wife, and I couldn’t make myself do it. How could I pray for someone I was hoping would be hit by a bus? But “anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Is it possible for the Prince of Peace to prevail in our hearts when we allow anger to “rest” there? John said, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Eternal life cannot abide “in” a heart filled with anger and the spirit of murder. It is something inside us—not apart from us. It is not a prize outside ourselves that we qualify for by keeping certain rules. Eternal life is present in who we are and what we are choosing to become through the divine gifts of our Savior’s atonement.
Modern revelation teaches us of one who refuses to forgive, “there remaineth in him the greater sin” (D&C 64:9). How is the sin “in” the person? The anger that rests in the bosom of fools is a sin that lives within the sinner—and it is excruciating. So how do we let it go? First, we must recognize that holding on to anger or hate is an act of will. We can let go of our hatred by relaxing our grip on our painful story. When we come to accept that it no longer matters who was right and, “say in [our] hearts—let God judge between me and thee,” we have made a significant breakthrough. (D&C 64:11). We must make a choice between our peace and our pain—and it is ours to make. (2 Nephi 2:26-27).