The acts of receiving and extending forgiveness are perfectly, inextricably entwined; ultimately, it is not possible to receive the blessings of the former without taking part in the latter.
In asking for mercy we learn better how to extend it—we come to understand that offering forgiveness has its own healing power. Forgiveness releases us from the burden of resentment, and giving such burdens to God brings with it the peace that only He can give us. If we are all striving to become like God, then what better way to start that journey than by practicing mercy, an attribute so central to the nature of God?
Because of God’s mercy we all have bodies, a world to live in, and agency to chart a course through life. In addition to giving us these great blessings, the Lord has provided the Atonement, which provides us with the opportunity to repent after we make mistakes with that agency so that we can still be eligible for salvation and eternal life. While this grace is a gift that we cannot earn, we can merit God’s forgiveness after we repent. At its essence, repentance is a restorative process, not a punishment; it strengthens us in our weakest places, harnesses our inner divinity, and helps us develop a Christlike nature.
The mind and the heart work together when we seek God’s forgiveness. Reason and faith make up a spiritual and emotional intelligence that give us an eternal perspective on our lives and the realization that there is no place for sin in them. We come to understand the incompatible natures of sin and God—one cannot abide the presence of the other. Because we want to live with God again, we reject our sinful behavior. We humble ourselves to become more teachable, and we extend the same mercy we ourselves are seeking to others who have offended us. In many ways, repentance is a symbolic reflection of the Atonement itself, a small gesture we make to express our understanding of and appreciation for Christ’s selfless, saving act.
As we receive forgiveness for our sins, we begin to feel overwhelming, unmistakable joy, a joy that only God can give. It is a recurrence of the gift we receive at baptism: a profound “remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Moroni 8:11). Although we are baptized only once, we can feel this same happiness and relief whenever we obtain forgiveness, and as many times as we need to in our quest to become like our Heavenly Father. With this forgiveness comes newness of life and a renewed sense of hope.
Renewal is very much at the heart of forgiveness—it fuels our progression and helps us see our potential: to become like God. In fact, we are best able to envision our potential by imagining the kind of progression and renewal that are without end—an eternal progression.