October 11, 2021

In Romans Chapter 1, Paul rails, ”against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," including "covenant breakers" (Romans 1:18, 31).

One of the most common complaints I have heard by Latter-day Saint mid-singles is, "My ex broke his (or her) covenants." During much of my mid-single life, I used expressions much like that to justify my divorce. It is an exceedingly convenient excuse for being divorced. It is also an exceedingly self-serving way of elevating myself above my former spouse.

Calling your former spouse a covenant breaker is often an effective way to get sympathy within the church; but it is fundamentally defensive. It is coming from the perspective that you owe people an explanation regarding the shameful situation you feel you are in. The truth is, you don't owe people an explanation, and it would be better not to give one if it requires you to speak ill of another person.

Paul followed up these comments about covenant breaking a couple of verses later with this statement:
""Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" (Romans 2:1).

So if we judge, we are covenant breakers too. This theme is repeated over and over in the scriptures, including in The Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's Prayer. It amounts to the principle that we will receive the mercy we extend to others--or the condemnation we extend to others. How does this principle apply to our rejoicing in our perceptions of another person's failings and faults?

In the end, holding up a former spouse's sins for others to see is a hollow victory and it leaves you hollow. It doesn't change anything about the situation in which you find yourself. We misuse the Gospel when we employ it to judge and condemn another person.

The further I have gotten down life's path, the more wisdom I see in forgiveness. As an attorney in private practice, I frequently had people come into my office filled with rage toward another person and wanting revenge. They would always couch it in language like, "I don't care how much it costs. I'm doing it for the principle." The principle was generally code for revenge. I used to explain to such clients that they don't have enough money to right all the wrongs in the world by suing people. There are legitimate reasons to file a lawsuit. There are things a lawsuit was designed to do for you. That would include restoring lost property resulting from another person's fraud or wrongdoing. But it has to be a smart business decision. I don't encourage people to sue over "the principle" when there is little chance of gaining anything but revenge--even if they can pay me to do it. I wouldn't serve them well by doing so. The ugliest lawsuits of all are between former spouses who used to cherish each other above all. That is the area where I see the most vindictiveness and thirst for revenge.

I realize that many of you have been terribly hurt and betrayed. Feelings of resentment and bitterness are natural in such situations. But, "the natural man is an enemy to God" (Mosiah 3:19.)

Bitterness and resentment are harmful to your spirit and your mental health. Dwelling on your former spouse's broken covenants does not restore your Shalom, nor provide you the room for self reflection and personal improvement. It focuses blame outside yourself, where you have absolutely no control.

Forgiveness is a process of letting go of malice and guile. Part of this process is truly understanding that the feelings you are holding on to do not serve you or anyone else. It is making a conscious decision to withhold condemnation and extend mercy as Christ extends it to you. When you do this, your Shalom will be restored.
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