Our families and friends can be harsh critics when we make mistakes. Our children may be present to watch and listen as others throw harmful words our way. They also watch our response and how we handle ourselves when we make mistakes or are falsely accused.
When others are critical, sometimes we echo their words and become our own worst critic. We join our critics by repeating their harshest words to ourselves over and over again, making it difficult to change or move on.
In many countries the punishment for crime is stoning, just as it was in the time of the Savior. If you were found guilty of adultery, a crowd would throw stones at you until you died.
In the book of John a woman is brought before the Savior by a group of Scribes and Pharisees or learned men. They tell the Savior that she has been caught committing adultery and, according to the law of Moses, should be stoned to death. Then they ask what he thinks. The Savior wrote on the ground while they continued to pester him.
Finally the Savior looked up and said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Then one by one, knowing they had committed sins, they dropped their stones and left.
The Savior asked the woman where her accusers were and if any man condemned her. She said, "No man, Lord." Jesus, then, said, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
This is the part of the story you should pay close attention to. First, he is instructing her to begin the repentance process or "sin no more." Second, he is also instructing her to go.
He doesn't tell her to pick up every dropped stone and take it with her so she will remember every mistake she ever made, or ugly accusation. He tells her to leave and do the right thing. It would be bizarre and silly if she began hurting herself with the stones, and yet aren't we often hardest on ourselves?
Would you walk away? Or would you stop and pick up every stone or ugly accusation and carry them away with you?
We all make mistakes. There is always someone willing to point out our misdeeds; willing to stone us to death with their words and accusations.
The Savior of the world stands between us and those that would stone us.
The Savior's Atonement is a gift for everyone. When we continue to "stone" ourselves or hang onto bad feelings about ourselves, it is as if we are saying his gift of the Atonement isn't adequate to heal us. We would rather hang onto the stones we are comfortable carrying.
When he stands between you and your sins, real or false accusations, will you go and do your very best to sin no more, or will you stop to pick up the stones that are cast your way and hurt yourself with them? Will you turn your back on your past mistakes or keep them rattling in your pockets and pull them out to show the world?
The Savior may not be here in person to stand between us and our accusers, but he has given us a pattern for repentance or a way to put down our stones.
Here are the steps of repentance
1. Recognize your sins
When you feel you have done something that either breaks a commandment or that you feel is wrong, study and recognize that you may have sinned.
2. Feel sad about what you have done
Remorse and sorrow are a good sign. They mean that we are not comfortable doing things we know are wrong.
3. Leave behind the sin
Do whatever you can to ensure that you do not sin again. This may mean choosing different friends or activities. For example if you struggle with a gambling addiction that is hurting your family, don't go with friends to the casino.
4. Get help through confession
Talk to your pastor or a counselor about the behavior, sin or action that is weighing you down.
5. Make restitution
If you have harmed anyone along the way, do your best to make it right. For example if you took something that wasn't yours, return it. But only if it will not cause more damage or harm.
6. Go and do not do it again
Just as the Savior instructed, leave it behind. Fill your life with other more positive goals, thoughts and wholesome activities. Now that you have put your stones down, pick up something good in their place.
7. Forgive yourself
Accept that the Savior's gift of the Atonement has the power to heal you and is adequate. Let go of your stones.
In the book of Hebrews, the Savior promises that he will be merciful to those that make mistakes and said, "...Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
The Savior of the world atoned for our sins. If he is willing to, "remember no more," we should be too. If we can learn to repent and forgive ourselves, our children can learn by watching us.
When you have made mistakes, and your family or friends seem willing or ready to cast stones at you, remember that you don't have to pick them up, accept them or carry them around. Turn to the Savior and let him help you, "go and sin no more."