Episode 3 // The Transformative Power of Forgiveness: A Pathway to Peace with Clair Canfield

Feb 27, 2024
Proclaim Peace S1E3

In this episode, Jen and Patrick are joined by Clair Canfield, who teaches Communication Studies and Conflict Transformation at Utah State University, to discuss the role of conflict within families, using examples from the Book of Mormon. They emphasize that conflict is a normal and inevitable part of family dynamics, even within the context of a prophet's family. They challenge the notion that conflict is inherently negative and encourage listeners to shift their perspective on conflict. They also acknowledge the difficulty of navigating conflict and offer insights on how to approach it in a healthy and constructive manner.

 

 

 

 

Listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts or watch on YouTube.

 

[00:01:10] Conflict as a neutral force.

[00:04:24-00:04:34] Conflict can be neutral.

[00:09:07] Forgiveness and peacemaking.

[00:13:27] Forgiveness and transformation.

[00:16:58] Forgiveness and dehumanization.

[00:23:38] Forgiveness and transformation.

[00:29:47] The importance of forgiveness.

[00:33:01] The work of forgiveness.

[00:37:17-00:37:28] Peace in a broken world.

[00:41:18] Forgiveness and healing process.

[00:46:23] The work of forgiveness.

[00:51:10] Developing compassion and forgiveness.

[00:54:33] The power of forgiveness.

 

 

Transcript

(00:03-00:06) Jennifer Thomas: Welcome to the Proclaim Peace Podcast. I'm Jennifer Thomas.
(00:06-00:12) Patrick Mason: And I'm Patrick Mason. And this is the podcast where we apply principles of the gospel and read the Book of Mormon to become better peacemakers.

(00:15-00:39) Jennifer Thomas: Hi Patrick, we're excited to be here, you can tell. I loved our last episode where we dove into First Nephi to see the various ways that conflict plays out with Lehi and Sariah's family. I think anyone who's part of a family can relate. I know I certainly can. I have four boys that are teenage and college age. And in some ways, the family conflict that we read about right in those opening chapters is relevant to all of us.

(00:39-01:24) Patrick Mason: Yeah, I mean, for me, this is one of the great things about the way that the Book of Mormon opens is that we see a real family, right? It's not like an idealized family where everybody's perfect and folds her arms during family home evening, you know, it's, uh, but, but this is a real family that the brothers are fighting. They're like literally trying to kill each other. And so right out of the gates in, in the Book of Mormon, I think what it does is it de-stigmatizes, in some ways normalizes conflict. And here, when I'm talking about conflict, I'm not talking about, again, not good that they're trying to kill each other. That's not the good thing that we're trying to say is normal. But simply that even in a prophet's family, in Lehi and Sariah's family, not everybody gets along. And I think that's a really useful model.

(01:25-02:32) Jennifer Thomas: So I have to say, again, four boys, sometimes don't kill each other, is the baseline we're all going for. But that's OK. We aim higher. But I would agree with you that this is sometimes one of the hardest paradigm shifts that people can make, because many of us are trained to be conflict avoiders, right? We just see conflict as a super negative thing, almost sometimes evil, and we try to avoid it. But I think what we'd like to present to all of you today is the idea that conflict isn't inherently negative. It's actually neutral and inevitable. In fact, that maybe we make a big argument that it is essential to God's plan for our happiness. There was obviously a proposition on the table for all of us for what would have essentially been a conflict-free world, and God rejected that. So we have to acknowledge that this is, I guess, one of the critical elements of being alive and being here on this planet, part of our mortal life. And I think that conflict arises from the fact that people are gloriously different, right? It's a lovely thing. They all have unique experiences, perspectives, and worldviews. And so it's only natural that we're all going to disagree sometimes.

(02:32-02:43) Patrick Mason: Yeah, so in a lot of ways we can think about conflict not so much as a bug in the system or a flaw in the system, but it's a feature of a system where God creates all this diversity.

(02:43-03:04) Jennifer Thomas: Exactly, right? And we have to remember, again, going right to the Book of Mormon, that what Lehi will eventually teach us all in 2 Nephi chapter 2 is that it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. So we know that there isn't happiness without also sadness, no joy without us feeling misery, that we're not going to feel any pleasure without pain. So we have to adapt to that and accept it.

(03:04-04:23) Patrick Mason: Yeah. And what I like there is it's not just along a kind of moral axis of good and evil, that a lot of the conflict that we experience in the world, there isn't an obvious right and a wrong. Sometimes it's just difference. And a big part of learning to navigate conflict and to deal with it in healthy ways is to recognize that there is a distinction when there's a clear right and wrong, good, evil, versus just differences of opinion, difference of worldview, difference of perspective. And of course, maybe the easiest way to think about this is the way that it's built into creation. We all get this in the sense that day is different than night. One isn't better than the other. They're just different. And it's oftentimes at those places where they meet where things get really interesting, a sunrise or a sunset. That's why they're so beautiful because it's at this point of conflict where these two things come together. Think about land and water. That's where you get the beach. One of my favorite places. And so part of our kind of reorienting to conflict is to recognize that it's not always about good and evil. Sometimes it just is. It's actually what gives variety. It's what gives beauty to life, to the earth, to relationships.

(04:24-04:42) Jennifer Thomas: And I think this is exactly what we mean when we say conflict can be neutral. And you've given us great examples of that. But let's take it back to human relationships, because that's what we're going to be talking about today. And I think we all, if we're honest with ourselves, have had that feeling that everything would just be easier if all of the people in our lives would just agree with us.

(04:43-04:44) Patrick Mason: That would definitely be true in my life. Right?

(04:44-05:11) Jennifer Thomas: It's true in all of our marriages, in our friendships, with our kids, sometimes with people at church. If they just agreed with us all the time, that would be easy. But I think what we'd like to propose that we all think about in this conversation is that that is us essentially assuming that we are right and the conflict is caused by their difference. If they would just be the same as us, the conflict would go away. I don't know that that would be actually so great.

(05:11-06:49) Patrick Mason: No, again, like oftentimes with my kids in the moment, I very much feel that way, or with a coworker or with any number of people, right? Quick resolution, right? Exactly. But I really like, so again, the Book of Mormon kind of reorients us to this, but also President Nelson did in that fabulous talk that he gave in April 2023, where he talked about the importance of peacemaking. He specifically said, and this is a quote from him, differences of opinion, so that's just one form of conflict, differences of opinion, are part of life. I work every day with dedicated servants of the Lord who do not always see an issue the same way. They know I want to hear their ideas and honest feelings about everything we discuss, especially sensitive issues. So right here, so the Book of Mormon, we've got all these differences, right? In the First Presidency, we have all these differences, differences of opinion. And I think what's really great then is then he says, it doesn't matter that we have differences of opinion, what matters is how we approach it, what we bring to it, right? So this is the difference between conflict and, say, contention. And because he talks about, he goes on to say, like, within the First Presidency, the way that we do this, the way that we are able to work through these differences of opinion, these disagreements, as he says, is because we disagree with pure love for each other. Neither one of his counselors, he said, suggests that he knows best, and therefore must rigorously defend his position at all costs, you know, the way that we sometimes do. Neither evidences the need to compete with the other, because each is filled with charity, the pure love of Christ.

(06:49-07:53) Jennifer Thomas: Okay, so that is such a fantastic perspective, and I especially love that President Nelson and both you have brought that back to Christ. And I think that one of the things that we also see in Christ is that he engages with conflict, but he does it without contention or coercion, and that's kind of what we want to normalize over the course of this podcast. So we've got both the Book of Mormon and we've got President Nelson telling us that conflict is something that we can expect, that we don't have to be afraid of it, and it doesn't make us bad people that we're in the middle of it. but they're both telling us really clearly that there are ways to do conflict well and there are ways to do conflict badly. We need to be aware of the fact that there are circumstances in which conflict is hard. It isn't always neutral. Like sometimes someone does us wrong, right? There are times when those differences of opinion seem like they have They are of such weight and they have such critical outcomes that if we can't find a resolution, people will really be harmed. So I think we need to figure out how to do this. And I guess that's the big question, how?

(07:54-08:30) Patrick Mason: Yeah, and so I think that's exactly what gets us to what we wanted to talk about in the rest of the episode today is recognizing, again, First Nephi is a great laboratory for this. It's not just differences of opinion. It's not just do we eat Mexican or Chinese for dinner tonight. Where are we going on the family vacation? Exactly, right? I mean, people are actually getting hurt. And so what that means in a real world where real conflicts lead to real pain and oftentimes trauma, is one of the resources, one of the tools that peacemakers need to have is forgiveness. And so that's where we want to go with the rest of this episode.

(08:31-08:59) Jennifer Thomas: I love that, because I think that this is actually the solution that Christ himself is offering to all of us, right? He's telling us that you need to learn about forgiveness and the role that's going to play in peacemaking. And in 1st Nephi, it is so clear that there is such a deep need on the part of many parties for forgiveness, right? But it just isn't there. It just isn't frequently a major part of the dynamic between Nephi and his brothers. So I think that's one of the ways we want to think about this differently.

(08:59-09:07) Patrick Mason: Yeah, exactly. So what if there had been more forgiveness in that family, and what are some practices that we can bring to bear?

(09:07-10:06) Jennifer Thomas: And again, I really appreciate that, because I think what this reading does is Nephi's family is in many ways not offering us a, do this exactly the way I do it, but they're inviting us. I think Nephi is inviting us into a counterfactual. He says from the very beginning, this is how things have played out. I want everyone to kind of learn differently, right? I think this gives us the opportunity to realize that while what happened to Nephi and his brothers is set in stone, we know how it played out. In fact, we know how it played out, not just in their immediate family, but how it played out over generations. Our lives aren't. Our lives aren't set in stone, and we have the opportunity to change. And so one of the purposes of Scripture is to give us the opportunity to reflect on how we might do that, and learn about it in settings that we trust and we value, like I believe in scripture, I trust the people who, it's the story that it's telling, but at the same time, I can observe it as a remove and learn from it. I'm not those people.

(10:06-10:54) Patrick Mason: Right. There's so much to talk about here. Forgiveness is such a rich topic. And that's why I'm really glad we've brought in an expert, somebody who's thought a lot about this topic. So I'm really happy to introduce a really good friend of mine, a colleague at Utah State University. Claire Canfield. Claire teaches Communication Studies and Conflict Transformation at Utah State. He's been doing conflict transformation and mediation for, what, 20 years? Something like that. Just an absolute expert. He and I taught a course together, an Intro to Peacebuilding course. It was one of the best courses that I've ever had a chance to participate in, just to see him teach and the way he interacts with the students and all the wisdom that he brings into the world. So Claire, so grateful to have you here talking about forgiveness. Welcome to Proclaim Peace.

(10:54-10:58) Clair Canfield: Yeah. Thanks for having me in that very generous introduction.

(10:58-11:03) Clair Canfield: I could have gone on. I'll go anywhere where people are just going to say nice things about me all the time.

(11:03-11:16) Jennifer Thomas: We'll do it. Can we start with a question that maybe is hard or easy? You decide. We are interested in hearing how you personally define peace. It can be broad or it can be in the context of what you're going to talk with us about today.

(11:17-12:00) Clair Canfield: Yeah, the thing that comes to mind first is I used to think peace is what happened when you didn't have conflict. But I've since come to see it as an enduring commitment to nonviolence, even in the face of interconnectedness and interdependence. So it's like when you have that interconnectedness and people influence you and you influence them, you're bound to have conflict. And so peace isn't, a lack of that interconnectedness and influence, but rather when we choose to be non-violent with each other, even in the face of those differences and that influence. So to me, that is really crucial to how I see peace.

(12:01-12:09) Jennifer Thomas: I love that because I think peace without interconnectedness would be yucky. It would just be an absence of all the good things in life, right?

(12:09-12:10) Patrick Mason: Solitary confinement.

(12:10-12:12) Jennifer Thomas: Yeah, solitary confinement, right?

(12:12-12:13) Clair Canfield: Absolutely.

(12:13-12:17) Clair Canfield: Sometimes I think that might be the only way some of my children can be peaceful.

(12:17-12:20) Jennifer Thomas: You over there and you over there.

(12:20-12:31) Patrick Mason: Right. So, well, and maybe Lehi and Sariah felt that way too, right? And this takes us right back into… Is that why they sent them back to Jerusalem? They just wanted five minutes.

(12:31-12:32) Clair Canfield: Get out of the camp.

(12:33-13:49) Patrick Mason: I've never thought about that. So here we are, and we could talk about lots of different episodes within the book of 1st Nephi, but I think if we were to zero in on one of these stories in 1st Nephi 7, remember that they've got the family of Ishmael with them now, so they're married off and the group in the wilderness has grown. And here they are yet again, Laman and Lamuel are fighting with Nephi and actually threatened to kill him, right? And so another act of violence. And it's actually the pleadings of some of the women from the family that sort of gets things to settle down a little bit. And then Nephi specifically talks about forgiveness, that the brothers, Laman and Lemuel, feel sorry for what they've done in response to this, and then show remorse. And then Nephi says that, I did frankly forgive them. in verse 21. And so, Claire, how do you… Kind of your first reading of this story as you respond to this story, what are the dynamics that you see going on here in terms of the way that forgiveness is operating here?

(13:49-15:42) Clair Canfield: Yeah, it's interesting that that word forgiveness pops up twice in that verse, right? Yeah. One of, I frankly forgave my brothers. And then he says, go and seek forgiveness from God. And having those two things there in the same verse, I think helps illustrate that we're not talking about the same thing there, even though we're using the same word. And for a long time, I couldn't differentiate between the two things, partially because we're using the same word. And that any time you have that that kind of stuck together there, it's difficult to recognize that they might not be the exact same thing. And when you start to understand what a word really means, it has the potential to transform the way you feel about it, the way you approach it. I think a little bit about President Nelson's talk early in his presidency when he began a talk starting to discuss the gathering of Israel. He's like, I've always been fascinated. And I was like, I'm about to check out the rest of this conversation because I have never been particularly fascinated by the gathering of Israel, right? I didn't really even totally understand that. And then he proceeds to say, actually, you know, I learned this thing that the word Israel actually means let God prevail. And immediately, as soon as that happened, like it transformed the way I, I thought about it and allowed me to imagine things differently. And for most of my life, I have seen no difference between the forgiveness that is offered to me from God versus the forgiveness that I extend to my fellow beings, and they are not the same thing.

(15:42-15:53) Patrick Mason: So, yeah, let's talk about that. Tell us the difference. Because you're right, they're both here in the same verse, right? It looks like it's the same thing, right? I did frankly forgive them, and then I told them to seek forgiveness from God.

(15:53-18:16) Clair Canfield: Yeah. So when he's saying, I frankly forgave them, he's not doing for his brothers what God does for me when he forgives me, right? And the way I make sense of forgiveness from God is there's a reconciliation between me and my higher power, right? I have created distance in some way, and the forgiveness that is offered is allowing me to be reconciled again, right? And that happens because I have sought it out. I have asked for forgiveness, and that is extended to me. And in fact, it's extended so fully that my understanding is that he's not going to keep remembering it or holding it against me. It's as if we are now, right, starting anew, fresh. If I try to take those things I understand about the forgiveness that happens there and apply it to my fellow beings when they do me harm, none of it makes any sense. And in fact, it creates barriers to me even being able to forgive. Because what forgiveness is to me, to my fellow beings, is that I turn the feelings that I have towards them when they have harmed me and dehumanized me because this is going to happen with a bunch of us imperfect human beings running around each other and we're in close physical and emotional proximity sometimes because we're in family units which are so important or or community groups all these things that we need And we do harm to each other. We're bumping up against each other in sometimes really painful ways. And so what do I do about how I then feel about other people when they're doing me harm, right? You've dehumanized me. My natural reaction is to feel hurt from that, to feel betrayed, to be angry, right? To have the energy that comes from anger to try and change things or protect something or make things different, right? That's the conflict that we're wanting to create some change. And if I don't know how to deal with what is left behind from other people doing me harm, then I spend the rest of my life as an angry, hurt, betrayed person.

(18:17-19:12) Jennifer Thomas: So let me… I completely agree with you that these are hard concepts. I think some of these beautiful, the most beautiful concepts and opportunities that God offers us, like atonement, forgiveness, they're sometimes the hardest to understand. So I have loved what you've just said, and can I repeat it back in a way to you to see if I've understood? So what… if I hear you saying is that you're telling me that when I am in a relationship of forgiveness with God, God is perfect. God's staying in the same place. The forgiveness process is me deciding to move closer to God and God reaching out and accelerating that process and pulling me toward him. He doesn't move. He's always good. He's always perfect. I'm going through huge change. But that doesn't work if it's… Because Patrick and I have been in a fight about a podcast episode, because neither of us… And if either of us act like we're God, it's gonna be a huge obstacle to the process.

(19:12-19:15) Patrick Mason: Because the other person always knows we're not God.

(19:15-19:17) Jennifer Thomas: Always knows, because I know Patrick knows I'm lying. And

(19:19-19:39) Clair Canfield: And for me, how I see God is love, that God is love. And so he never has to change how he feels towards me. But I do have to change how I feel towards you because I'm not a perfect being of love. I get hurt. And I want to withdraw.

(19:39-19:47) Jennifer Thomas: So forgiveness between two people to work actually requires them moving together. They both have to do moving and both have to do changing to some degree.

(19:49-20:45) Clair Canfield: Ideally that would happen. If we want to reconcile, both people are going to need to be moving together. But forgiveness isn't reconciliation. There are going to be situations where the other person doesn't move at all, that they never look to come closer, right? They have done harm and they have moved forward, or they may not think they have done any harm at all. I've had plenty of situations where people have been hurt by things that I've done, I did not intentionally harm them. I didn't want to harm them, but I did. And my intention is different from the impact that I had. And so if I have impacted them in that way, they're having to deal with that. Now, ideally, if we can reconcile, we're both making movement, but forgiveness allows me to change my heart no matter what the other person does.

(20:47-22:05) Patrick Mason: I mean, here in this story at least, prior to Nephi saying, I frankly forgave them, we do have Laman and Lemuel saying that they have remorse for what they did, the sorrow for what they did. Again, that's brought about from these pleadings interesting from these women in the family. But Nephi is writing this a long time later, right? He's remembering this story. And so he knows that Laman and Lemuel are gonna hurt him again and again and again, even after this moment. And they have, right? He's writing this even after the family is split up and they're at war with each other and so forth. So what does forgiveness look like? I mean, it looks like at this moment, Laman and Lemuel really are sorry. I mean, it seems even Nephi recognizes that their sorrow is genuine and sincere in this moment, but they're gonna repeat the same things over and over again. I think a lot of people, that's where forgiveness is sometimes hard. Like, okay, I I know you're sorry right now, but this is like this pattern of behavior. I'm not sure that I can expect you to actually change. So what does forgiveness look like in a relationship where the other person… That other person won't move. Yeah, they won't.

(22:05-23:25) Clair Canfield: Yeah, and perhaps part of what we're reading there makes it hard to understand forgiveness because when we read, I frankly forgave them, it's like this instantaneous thing that happened, right? Now, in order for forgiveness to occur where I can take feelings of hurt and betrayal and harm and damage and dehumanization and the anger that's left behind from that. and transform that into positive feelings towards the person who offended me, right? I go from having malevolent feelings towards them to having benevolent feelings towards them. And in order for that to happen, there are three things that can help with it. And we see one of the things in this situation, which is the other person is sorry. They are penitent, they apologize. And there's some serious sorry here, right? Like they talk about getting down on their knees and we're so sorry. And this is somebody that Nephi has a relationship, this is family. It does not surprise me that he is immediately able to transform that hurt back into feelings of love or positiveness towards his brothers because they were sorry.

(23:25-23:25) Jennifer Thomas: And they showed it.

(23:26-24:37) Clair Canfield: Yeah, and when we read something like that, we may get the idea that that's what forgiveness looks like all the time. That I should just be able to frankly forgive you immediately after the harm that you have done, whether you asked for forgiveness or not, right? So I mentioned that kind of those like three ingredients, if it's useful, I like to think of, you know, maybe like one of those cups that we're trying to fill. If we can fill that cup, then those feelings of hurt and anger and malevolence towards the person who did us harm, we fill that cup and then once it overflows, we begin to have transformed that into positive benevolent feelings. So there's three things you can put into that cup. One is the penitence or the apology of the other person. And sometimes that is enough. For me, if my daughters do something that hurts me, right? For example, there's this chocolate home, kind of small chocolate company in Brigham City where I live, Idle Isle. They make the most delicious almond balls.

(24:37-24:39) Clair Canfield: They are fantastic. You've had them, right?

(24:39-24:42) Jennifer Thomas: I have had these. I have a mother-in-law from Cache Valley.

(24:42-24:49) Clair Canfield: They're so amazing, right? So I have a box of these that I hid in my drawer because they were for my birthday.

(24:49-24:56) Clair Canfield: These are mine. They were mine. I really like them. This is my special treat. I like to kind of dole them out over a period of time.

(24:56-25:03) Clair Canfield: So I have this box of chocolates and I open up the drawer and there's just almond crumbs.

(25:06-25:33) Clair Canfield: There has been a raid, and I know who raided it, right? It's my oldest daughter, and I'm like… child of mine, what have you done? Right. And I'm like, you ate all my chocolates. And she's like, I know. I'm sorry. I just really like him. Right. And, and she's, she's like, can you forgive me? And I'm like, yes. Right.

(25:33-25:46) Clair Canfield: Like I'm immediately, you know, feeling more positively towards her because she's owning and recognizing what she did. And I did, I felt, again, immediately love towards her.

(25:46-25:49) Patrick Mason: And you have this relationship already, right? This long-term relationship.

(25:49-26:20) Clair Canfield: But I don't have that with everybody. So even if somebody asked for forgiveness from me, it might take even more than that for me to forgive. And again, sometimes I'm not going to get it at all. Right? So the second thing that you can kind of put into that cup is it's almost like the characteristic, the capacity or the virtue of forgiveness. You can think of it as something that you can develop as a virtue.

(26:20-26:22) Jennifer Thomas: Sort of a muscle that you have to practice.

(26:22-27:05) Clair Canfield: Yeah. And we don't always have that. I don't think we have it immediately. And it is something you can develop. I think some people have a greater capacity to forgive, to transform those emotions. Might be a gift, a spiritual gift. Yes, it could be a spiritual gift or one that we seek after and gain. So I see sometimes that maybe your cup is almost shorter than other people because you've already got this capacity to be forgiving. It's a virtue that can be developed. Now some of us don't have that either. We might even think of ourselves as a person that holds grudges tightly and will never forget what has happened, right?

(27:05-27:13) Patrick Mason: And that might be because we might have a spiritual gift of a keen sense of justice or something like that. We want the world to be right.

(27:13-27:41) Clair Canfield: And it might seem like these things are working against each other. How can justice exist if I forgive? And I mean, that's one of the challenge all of us have is to make sense of the idea that justice and mercy both have hold of us. And so if I'm giving mercy, what about justice? And I value that thing. So that's another thing that you can put in there But again, we may have differing levels of that at any given time in our life.

(27:41-28:45) Jennifer Thomas: So before you move on to that third, I actually, and I'd be interested to hear if the two of you agree with this, but I would be inclined to say that probably societies and kind of the zeitgeist around us incline us towards certain kinds of behavior and thought, right? And I would say that right now, we probably aren't as inclined towards that second idea of forgiveness, right? Of developing the muscle. There's nothing in our society that is saying, hey, you need to freely forgive people, or you need to at least exercise that muscle. And in fact, I think we actually get a lot of messages that are the opposite, that are like, incline us to say, no, no, no, this is just toxic relationship, or this is just, I need to just walk away. So what would be your response? Or that forgiveness is a weakness. is a weakness, right? So what would be your response to someone who's inclined to want to develop? Because I think we know that becoming better people, we always have to start with an inclination, a desire to want that. How would you help people who are sort of awash in a world that doesn't lead them towards that inclination to sort of desire, develop a desire to exercise that muscle?

(28:45-29:35) Clair Canfield: I don't think there's anything in the zeitgeist or the world that necessarily encourages us towards Christ-like discipleship. And I think that's part of what all of us have to deal with the challenge of. Like if I were a malevolent being set on the destruction and other people not developing themselves, then the things that I would want to attack or denigrate would be the things most important to the development that in other human beings, right? To find their ultimate capacity. And I think forgiveness is one of the most crucial gospel concepts we have to become more like a God of love.

(29:35-30:40) Patrick Mason: Do you think that maybe it starts…so even if there are these these pressures or cultural disincentives or rhetorics that would keep us from it. Could it be as simple as just simply stemming from the fact that I want forgiveness for myself? Maybe that's where it starts, a kind of golden rule type thing. And so I know it's hard for me to do, right? It's that there might even be good reasons for me to resist it, in particular moments or things like that, because of, again, a commitment to justice or accountability or something like that. But I think deep down, people also know that, like, I certainly know that I'm gonna do harm to other people, and at some point, I'm gonna have to seek forgiveness from other people, let alone from God. And so this just simply becomes a kind of thing that if I want this virtue exercised towards me, just karma or whatever, right? I'm gonna have to project that out into the universe as well.

(30:40-31:02) Clair Canfield: I'm reminded of a scripture that talks about, like, when I do something good, I am immediately blessed, right? And it's like, there's nothing that I can do to be a profitable servant. I'm just constantly being benefited from this benevolent God who is trying to give me gifts and love and that type of thing.

(31:02-31:03) Jennifer Thomas: And forgiveness.

(31:03-31:06) Clair Canfield: Yeah. And so it's like, I never earned my key.

(31:06-31:07) Patrick Mason: You never get ahead.

(31:07-31:28) Clair Canfield: I never get ahead. And that can sometimes be a way to be motivated to do some of these hard things is to realize there is something in this for me. In fact, I see forgiveness as a selfish act. I think it was the Dalai Lama who once directly said, forgiveness is a selfish act.

(31:28-31:29) Patrick Mason: And I love that, right?

(31:29-32:11) Clair Canfield: Because it's what it does for me. I am just a better human being when I see the full humanity of other people, when I can have feelings of love or benevolence to others, even those who have done me harm. And in fact, especially those who have done me harm. Right? We have never been tasked to just love the people who are easy to love and love you back. Love the people who have done you harm, who are your enemies, who have despitefully used you. That's been our task. And how do you do that? That's what the forgiveness process is for, is to allow us to have those types of feelings towards the ones who have done us the greatest harm.

(32:12-32:54) Jennifer Thomas: And I think I, you know, I have no evidence to support this. It's just personal experience. But to me, it's very much a virtuous cycle. The more I am willing to forgive, the I feel like I'm in a better place to ask for forgiveness of others. It doesn't feel hypocritical, whether it's I'm going to God or I'm going to another person. Even if it hasn't been forgiveness exchanged in that relationship, if I've offended Claire and I can go to him and ask for forgiveness, it's just easier for me than if a problem arises in a different quarter to either seek or forgive. And so I think it goes both ways. The more I ask for forgiveness, the more I'm willing to forgive, and the more I forgive, the more comfortable I feel asking for forgiveness, right?

(32:54-33:01) Clair Canfield: So there's no doubt this is a gift. Yeah, that just keeps giving to us in so many different ways.

(33:01-33:22) Jennifer Thomas: So maybe ironically, one of the best ways that we can learn to forgive is to start asking for forgiveness, right? If we really want to develop that muscle and say, I, you know, in our prayers, I want to learn to forgive, maybe part of one of the ways we could orient our prayers is really reflective asking for forgiveness and feeling what it feels like to get it. Yeah.

(33:22-33:48) Clair Canfield: I also want to recognize, I'm thinking right now, you know, we've been talking about forgiveness for, I don't know how long, I'm sure there's a stunt timestamp and people are looking down if they're still around. And it's like, we've been talking about this for 15 minutes. Like, I think there are plenty of folks who know very well how important forgiveness is. They desire to do it and yet still don't know how to change those feelings.

(33:48-33:48) Jennifer Thomas: Right.

(33:49-35:13) Clair Canfield: So it's like maybe they want that cup to be full, but it's not. And not because they don't think they should or that they don't want to, but it's because, okay, the other person didn't ask for forgiveness. And I don't particularly have this virtuous muscle maybe developed. What else is there? So what's the third thing? The third thing is the work of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness is so misunderstood because again, we don't have different words and everything we understand about what forgiveness looks like from a higher power to us can create a potential misunderstanding, myth, or false belief about what forgiveness looks like with my fellow humans. And every single one of those barriers then can block a person from filling that cup. And I have witnessed hundreds of examples of people desiring to change the emotions that they have trapped in them, right? The emotional prison that they're in from the harm that's been done to them, the dehumanization they've gone through, but yet they are stuck there because they don't think they can forgive, that they should forgive, that it's possible to forgive because of some barrier that exists around their understanding of it.

(35:14-35:36) Jennifer Thomas: So maybe this is a good place to ask the question is, what do you think in your experience is the relationship between forgiveness and peace? Right? Those barriers, on the one hand, it might seem obvious. We can't have peace in our lives and societies if we aren't willing to forgive, if we perpetually are angry with other people. Does forgiveness in some ways rob justice? I mean, how do we create peace if we just

(35:40-37:14) Clair Canfield: When I think about in terms of like, what impact does this have on peace? I can think of my own experiences of when I have had those emotions towards somebody that I felt has done me harm or dehumanize me. And it can change, it can change my behaviors, my behavioral patterns. I know plenty of people who stopped going the same route through town or no longer go to a particular restaurant or maybe don't even want to be in a certain town or right like their whole behaviors. shift or change, maybe even their whole worldview. Like, is there a group of people in the world that you just immediately have distrust towards? Right? Because some member who might, you might associate with them, that group has, you believe has harmed you in some way. And now you have this, this distrust towards maybe half the population, right? It's like, you can't trust, yeah, well you, like I've seen so many broken hearts that lead to now this massive shift in my whole world view. Einstein once said, the most important decision you can make is to determine that the universe is a friendly place. And when you've been harmed, you feel more like Hemingway said, where the world breaks everyone and you just feel broken.

(37:16-37:17) Jennifer Thomas: Be in Einstein, right?

(37:17-37:40) Clair Canfield: So how am I supposed to have peace in the world? When I am walking around with that distrust and sometimes I bury it so deeply I don't know notice it all the time But I know plenty of people that you could be driving down the street and you've given no thought to the harm that's been done to you in the past but then you pass that vehicle of a certain color make and model and

(37:41-37:43) Clair Canfield: And it all comes rushing back.

(37:43-37:59) Clair Canfield: Or the song comes on the radio. Or you smell a certain scent of perfume. Or maybe you hear a name. I know plenty of people who would never name their child a particular name because someone done done me wrong in the past.

(38:00-38:05) Clair Canfield: And never again will Frank be uttered in this way, right?

(38:05-38:31) Clair Canfield: Sorry, Franks, if there's any listening right now. We're all good people, Frank. But how do you have peace if that is carried with you indefinitely? And forgiveness is how you transform those emotions that have changed your whole worldview, your behaviors, your patterns, the way you see yourself in the world and the way you see other people. And we haven't even started talking about how you apply that to yourself.

(38:31-39:02) Patrick Mason: Yeah. Well, as we move towards, I mean, we could do this for hours and hours, right? I mean, this is not something that we can just all figure out in 45 minutes or whatever, but I think this is a good start. And so as we think about application and the way that this can actually work, can you talk about that on a personal level? Absolutely. In terms of the ways that you've practiced forgiveness, maybe had to learn how to exercise those muscles and how that brought peace into your life in some way?

(39:02-39:53) Clair Canfield: Part of that for me started when I was able to start to differentiate between what forgiveness is and what it isn't, to start to pull apart some of those myths and misconceptions I had, because I tried the things that I thought forgiveness was. such as forgive and forget. Maybe people have heard that before. So I have forgiven if I just forget about it. And the kind of mental gymnastics it takes sometimes to try and just pretend like a thing didn't happen, it actually can lead to mental distress and dis-ease, disease, right? Like it's not healthy for us to try and compartmentalize entire experiences or portions out of our life. Also, sometimes it's really unwise to forget the things that have happened to us because we open ourselves back up for that same thing to happen.

(39:53-39:54) Jennifer Thomas: even from a different person.

(39:54-42:57) Clair Canfield: Yeah, and I also thought that forgiveness meant you condone the behavior and you just let the other person off the hook and that got me stuck because that's not okay what happened to me and if I just pretend like that doesn't matter well now I'm dehumanizing myself by saying yeah I guess I deserve to be treated in that way. No, forgiveness is just not Letting it go or forgetting about it or permissive or or condoning it or having no boundaries and let just let let other people do whatever they want and I'll just like you anyway, right? It's not that either Because again, do you see how those are connected to the way I understand forgiveness from God? God forgets, so I must have to forget, right? Nope, that's not what this is. God absolves it, doesn't hold it again. No, that's not what it is either, right? God reconciles with me. Sometimes I think I can't forgive because I don't want to have a relationship with that person. I don't want to open myself back up to the harm. You don't have to reconcile with somebody in order to forgive them. But that's what I thought it was. So all of these misconceptions made it so I couldn't even do it. But once I started to figure out that forgiveness is also not just saying the words, because when You know, when Nephi says, I frankly forgave them, the forgiveness didn't happen because he uttered the words. The forgiveness happened in his heart. And we sometimes think forgiveness is I say it to the person, I forgive you. And that's what our parents tell us to do. You hit your brother, you say you're sorry, you forgive, and we think that is done and we have moved on the way. But no, as a little kid, I was still very angry. You didn't forgive anything. I'll never forget. So forgiveness, once I started to understand it as a process, It gave me a path to start to change my heart. And I began by needing to uncover the anger that I had buried around what had happened, right? I've had grudges that I've held for a really long time. I've had hurt that sometimes resurfaced after I'd forgotten about it for quite a while, or it wasn't on my mind. I remember really distinctly when I found out that my, my oldest child was getting bullied at school when she was in first grade. and I was enraged at the little kid that was hurting my daughter. And it's not healthy for me to have hatred. Yeah, like I had these moments of when I was just kind of like fantasizing about like going over to that school and walking out during recess, right? And I could see the children part, I'm six foot four, right?

(42:57-43:15) Clair Canfield: So they're, they're like parting, like the Red Seas, I stride forward. And there's that kid just standing there. And I would walk up, if you ever so much as harm a hair on the head of my child again, right, I will destroy you. That's not healthy to have in my heart, right?

(43:16-45:20) Clair Canfield: So, so like, I, forgiveness is not always just about the harm that gets done to us personally, but how we feel towards other people that harm those that we care about. Right. So I had all of that happening. And at the same time, it uncovered anger that I had buried for years about what bullies had done to me when I was a kid. I got bullied in middle school. I had to take the bus 40 minutes to and fro from the little middle school I was at, and I had a kid who regularly bullied me. I can still recall vividly the smell of when he spit on me one day. And all of it came back when my daughter got bullied. So I had to uncover the anger because you can't face what is buried, right? I had to uncover that and understand why it hurt, why it wasn't okay, what maybe needed to be done about it. Like sometimes before we can go through a transformation of those emotions, we have to get safe. Because if we're in a situation where the person just continually keeps doing that harm and is crossing those boundaries, how are we ever supposed to do that work where we can feel differently about them? Because they just keep reopening the wound over and over again. So maybe I need to understand how the anger is helping me have the energy to create some boundaries or get myself safe. And then once I can see that, then I get to make the choice of whether or not I want to do forgiveness. I don't think any of us can do hard work like forgiveness unless we choose to do it. And fundamentally, I feel it's important that we choose to do it, that we don't just feel obligated to do it, but that we want to.

(45:20-46:55) Jennifer Thomas: Well, and I think what's so interesting to me is where we've been talking, we started this episode by talking about a narrative of a family and a very specific moment in which forgiveness happened that didn't prove to be lasting, and we see over the course of this chapter and a few chapters forward, how that plays out in a family. But it's so intriguing to me that this book, which was written for us and written for our day, a time when people are fairly contentious, where we tend to want to solve problems. All of the movies, everything tells us to solve problems exactly the way you described. You wanted to handle it on the playground. And the book opens with this opportunity where conflict could end in forgiveness and it doesn't. And then we see it goes from the intimate and the personal to the macro. And we see how over the course of generations, how that absence of forgiveness plays out. And the moments in which people achieve it, the society's healed. And the moments when they can't, they go back to their old ways. It isn't. And I guess I just bring that up because I think there's huge value in doing the work of forgiveness. We talked about a gift to yourself, right? But I also think we have to remember that the work of doing forgiveness is also a gift to our families, to our children, to the society that generations after us will live in. If we're willing to be peacemakers and do the work of forgiveness, we can not only have impact now, But I think we have the potential, if enough of us do that work, to build a society that is founded on that virtue.

(46:55-47:13) Patrick Mason: Well, that's exactly what it says in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where we get the proclaimed peace from the title of the podcast, is it talks about the multi-generational effect of this, either way. So it isn't just about me and you. It's about what gets projected into the world for a very long time.

(47:13-47:18) Clair Canfield: It changes generational patterns and families to be able to do it.

(47:19-47:40) Jennifer Thomas: And your own daughter could have potentially seen a very different reaction to her bullying than the one you offered her, right? And so you've given her a pattern to follow that will bless her life, whereas the way you might have wanted to viscerally solve that problem actually might have you been solving the problem for her while also handing her another long-term problem, right, of not knowing how to forgive.

(47:41-47:56) Clair Canfield: I sometimes like to think of caring or love or emotions as being a type of energy. And I'm not much of a physicist, but I do believe there's some sort of law that energy cannot be destroyed or created.

(47:57-47:59) Patrick Mason: I've heard that somewhere.

(47:59-48:17) Clair Canfield: And I don't think you can destroy the kind of love and benevolent emotions you put into the world when you forgive, when you change your heart. And I do think that it does matter. in the world.

(48:17-48:19) Jennifer Thomas: I think it has knock-on effects often that we don't even see.

(48:19-55:29) Clair Canfield: So it's like, how then do you do that? That's the work part of it that fills up that cup that's like the next stage of the forgiveness process, which is the things that I can do to transform those emotions that I felt towards the other person. And that starts with trying to understand. I don't want to understand oftentimes how it is possible that somebody could have done me harm for any other reason than they must be a bad person or they meant to do it. Their intention and their characteristic. And so as soon as I demonize them and I think you're a bad person because you hurt me, I have now dehumanized you because you dehumanized me. We are now creating this reciprocal pattern of dehumanization back and forth, right? Revenge, holding a grudge, right? You're less of a person now in my mind because you made me feel like less of a person. And so I have to find a way to understand that you could have done me harm while still being a fully human person deserving of dignity and love as much as I am. And that is not an easy thing to do. So how do I go about making sense of this kid bullying my daughter other than he's a lousy little kid, right? Well, I started to try and understand that I actually read a book on bullying and what I found out as I started to read that and I was angry as I was reading it. I will find out the answer to never allow bullying to happen ever again I think that's part of why am I started reading it? But I read it and I found out the vast majority of kids who bully others have been bullied It's a cycle that perpetuates itself I also started to learn something about the kind of the family of origin that this kid was coming from and he was coming from difficult circumstances and I also think that I figured out that he probably liked my daughter and had no way of communicating that in a healthy way. This was also a kid that was dealing with being perhaps the only black kid in a primarily white neighborhood. And each piece of that, as I started to piece together how it was possible that he might have engaged in that kind of behavior towards my daughter, it started to shift the way I thought about him. And as I started to understand, it led me to the next piece of the work of forgiveness, which is developing compassion, right? Working on compassion. So can I feel kindness, benevolence towards somebody because I can see that they're suffering. This is what compassion is, right? I see you suffering. I connect with the reality of that being part of the human experience, and I can have kindness towards your suffering. And I started to feel that, right? I started to imagine, understand what it must have been like for him. And I just started to notice I didn't feel the same. way about him. I don't feel that way about him now either. Like it's really tough for me to think about that kid without being almost overwhelmed with a sense of compassion. And, and that led me to the next step in it, which is like offering a gift, offering a gift to the one that did you harm. And look, if you're listening to this right now and you're like, Oh no, Not doing that. Forgiveness is a process that does not have to be rushed. And if you're not ready to do that thing, then that's not where you are in the process. You need to go back to where you are and you just might be needing to uncover some more anger, right? Or understand what forgiveness is and what it isn't. Make a choice. This is where I came to in the process. And it wouldn't be appropriate for me to go give this stranger, you know, a present on his birthday. This is not the kind of gift. But of course there are many ways to give gifts and what I did is I put out to the universe and I prayed for this kid that he could find healthy relationships, that he could find wholeness in his life. You know, it reminds me of pray for those who. I was just going to say, I remember somebody saying something about that. Right. And so that process of me desiring good for him continued to change my heart. Right. And as I faced, as I did that, I also then got to face all of my own emotions. It's amazing what you can learn about yourself and how, as you have to face all the emotions that that being harmed brings up. For example, I had to face the reality that I could not protect my daughter from harm in the world. And I love her. And how do I reconcile what it means for her to have choice and other people to have choice and that we're going to harm each other? and that I can't stop that from happening and I can't protect her. So many things that I got to face around my own emotions because when I had to face that, part of me wanted to just pull back. It's like if you don't care, you don't get hurt, right? So what does it mean to like be able to fully care and fully love while knowing that's gonna bring you pain? And I think there's a direct relationship between suffering and love, right? Our ability to suffer deeply gives us an ability to have compassion and love at an incredibly deep level. And I want to be able to do that. So I had to face the emotions of, okay, you're going to hurt then. If you want to love this child that way, if you want to love other people that way. And as I did that and those emotions transformed, I found all the gifts that come with forgiveness. It gave me a sense of purpose in my life. I actually found that it was so meaningful to me that I wanted to share it with other people. Here I am on a podcast talking about forgiveness. I'm so grateful to have that opportunity because it feels deeply meaningful to me. I also found that I was released from like the emotional prison that I was in when I was so angry at these people, right? It released me from that emotional prison and it's also helped me understand how deeply I need forgiveness. It also opened up the potential that I could relate and connect with people in different ways. and that there was meaning in the suffering that I had gone through. And that process, that filled the cup.

(55:32-55:55) Patrick Mason: That's amazing. I mean, thank you so much for sharing that, especially, I love the way that you narrate it. I mean, that it's so personal, right? And so real. But then you're able to help us understand these particular concrete steps and phases that the people go through. So thank you for sharing all of that.

(55:56-56:57) Jennifer Thomas: I think that one of the only ways that concepts like this become accessible to us is when people who've walked the path can narrate it, right? And that requires them to share their experience. So I really appreciate it. I think we really could talk about this all day. I feel as I'm sitting here- I could. I know you don't want me to, but I could. I feel myself listening and thinking, OK, I've got to do this, and I've got to fix that, and I've got to try that. And that is one of our hopes for this podcast, is that we will be able to make accessible to people really tangible pathways to peace. And I think you have made a beautiful and articulate and really detailed, described a very detailed pathway towards peace. by traveling, you know, through forgiveness. And I think we're really appreciative of that. We just kind of want to close by asking you a question that we ask everyone. And that is, could you share with us one or two ways or places or people or Just mechanisms that bring you peace.

(56:57-57:45) Clair Canfield: Yeah, I thought about that question a little bit and I found that you know I sometimes thought about how peaceful I feel when I'm alone like in solitude and nature and and also sometimes how peaceful I feel with other people it seemed to kind of contradictory. And I think what I came to is that I feel peace when I have a place of communion, whether that communion is with myself or a higher power in my own solitude, right? Where I can explore what it means to like truly connect in those ways with myself or with my higher power. And also when I can in deep ways, commune and connect with other people. and those are places where I've felt really deep levels of peace.

(57:45-58:02) Patrick Mason: It's amazing. Thank you. Thanks, Claire Canfield. She's a professor at Utah State University, teaches Communication Studies, Conflict Transformation, Mediation. It's really been a gift to have you on here with us today. Thank you. It was a pleasure.

(58:02-58:02) Jennifer Thomas: Lots to take away.

(58:05-58:24) Patrick Mason: Thanks everybody for listening today. We really appreciate it. We just want to invite you to subscribe to the podcast and also to rate and review it. We love hearing feedback from listeners, so please email us at podcast at mweg.org. We also want to invite you to think about ways that you can make peace in your life this week. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

(58:29-58:45) Jennifer Thomas: Thank you for listening to Proclaim Peace, a proud member of the Faith Matters Podcast Network. Faith Matters holds expansive conversations about the restored gospel to accompany individuals on their journey of faith. You can learn more about Faith Matters and check out our other shows at faithmatters.org.



 

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