Inspirational Stories

The Two Things I NEVER Thought I Was Brave Enough to Say to My Enemy

As I laid in bed Sunday morning my mind started drifting to an old pain. A heartache that I’ve been pushing as far back into myself as it could possibility go. I began to feel the ache expressing itself in my stomach and moving up to my throat.

Anger, sadness, regret…all rolled into one dull ball right in the middle of my stomach.

Even though my automatic response was to push it away (again) and try to forget, I allowed myself to think about it…for just a moment longer…

With tears forming in my eyes, the same questions I’ve asked myself a thousand times came back… How could he do this to me? Does he even know the extent of how this has affected me? What a jerk. I hate him.

And then, as if God was waiting for this perfect time, I heard Him whisper…

“Forgive him.”

. . .

In 2011 I wrote a photography book. It wasn’t an instant success…but pretty close. It was selling, and selling fast. It seemed it was the exact book that people were looking for.

It garnered hundreds of rave reviews. People saying things like, “I’m finally able to understand my camera!” and “My pictures have never looked better!” …all thanks to my book.

I was elated. Of course. Who wouldn’t be?

I continued to find new ways to promote it and get the word out. Some ideas didn’t pan out but most of my efforts did and it resulted in more and more book sales.

For the first year, to keep costs down, I only sold the digital copy. But throughout the year more and more people were asking if there was a physical copy available. I tried a few, “print on demand” companies but because the book needed to be printed in color, it was costing about $17 to print each book! Not a great profit margin.

I soon realized that I needed to bite the bullet and get the book printed in bulk. It would cut costs considerably plus; I could then list the book on Amazon. I knew once I had the power of Amazon behind me, I would really be able to make an impact.

Jon and I didn’t have the capital to get the books printed but because of how well it was going and I knew this book would continue to perform, I decided to be brave and ask my parents if they would become business partners and lend us the money.

It was a scary conversation.

Not because my parents are scary but because of what I was asking…. I was asking for a pretty large sum of money. What if something went wrong? What if I messed up?

My parents are not rich by any means but they’ve worked hard, saved, and have been incredibly smart with their money for many years so I was pretty sure they had what we needed. Sure enough, after much thought and prayer and because they wholeheartedly believed in me, they lent us the money.

While the books were being printed I started the process of getting it listed on Amazon. It felt good. It felt right. Everything was falling into place.

With the books printed and the listing live I sent out an email to everyone who had already bought the book. I let them know my book was now listed on Amazon and asked them to write a review, if they so desired.

Because I have the most wonderful readers and students in the world, as soon as I asked, many of them immediately headed over to Amazon and wrote a review.

Within a matter of days, I had close to 150 5-star reviews. It was such an incredible experience to read those reviews. It brought tears to my eyes to see over and over again how beneficial this book has been to people.

Just as I projected, as soon as it was listed on Amazon, the book continued to sell. I was gaining a lot of traction and momentum with all the sales and reviews creating the perfect recipe for success.


After several months of exciting sales with it only growing more and more, I got thrown a pretty wicked curve ball…

I received a bad review.

It wasn’t just bad, it was mean, vindictive, worst of all, it was a total lie.

It was written by another photographer who had also written a photography book.

He was offended by a review that my husband wrote on his book. Jon (my husband) had learned how to spread the word about my amazon book by making helpful and kind comments on similar books, and then saying something to effect of, “Another photography book that I like is (fill in the blank).”

So that’s what Jon did. He made a comment on this photographers’ book and then mentioned my book at the end.

This guy was not happy about it. So what did he decide to do? Write a terrible review on my book telling everyone that all my previous reviews were fake and they should never buy this book from such a dishonest person.

And if that wasn’t good enough for him, he sent a bunch of his photography colleges and students to my book to also write awful reviews, call me a liar, a fake, and ridicule my book.

I. Was. Distraught.

It was my own worst nightmare. Not only do I not take criticism very well, it pained me to no end to have complete and utter lies written about me. I felt helpless and stupid.

Some people run head on to fight their enemies…I found out that I’m not that person. …I retreat and hide.

Jon took down the review he left on that guys’ book and I begged Amazon Customer service to delete the terrible things they said on my listing. I pleaded with them that they were lies and that they hadn’t even read my book. But to no avail.

The reviews stayed on there like a billboard announcing what a terrible person I was.

I felt violated, helpless, and angry. So angry.

To make matters even worse, my once thriving book sales plummeted. I no longer had any sales. People were reading the bad reviews and believing them.

I was heartbroken.

What do I do now?

I had nearly 10,000 books printed, sitting in a basement, and no one wanted them. I felt so much guilt that I had used my parent’s hard earned money and I had no way to repay them.

I tried to come back. I tried to fight. But it took the wind out of my sails. I was totally deflated.

I wish I could tell you that I eventually found my groove, that I figured out a way for all of those books to be sold and I had the last laugh. But no, after 7 years, almost all of those books are still sitting in a basement.

My parents are angels. They have never said a word about repayment. I try and tell them when I have a great idea about how I’m going to finally get them sold and they’re so sweet about it. “That sounds great!”, they say, continually and eternally supporting me. But each and every time, my idea fails and the books remain unsold.

I’ve never forgiven that guy.

He took something from me that was so precious, so valuable and squashed it without looking back, without caring what he left in his wake.

I try to push my feelings back, so far back that I won’t feel them. That I can’t feel them. But from time to time they come creeping to the surface.

Like Saturday night when I got a notification that I actually sold, not one, but 2 books. (yay me!) As a rule, I don’t let myself read any more of the Amazon reviews of my book. It only brings up pain. But last night I peeked. I was curious if anything more was written.

And I saw that yes, there were a few more reviews, some very nice and some very mean. I quickly stopped reading and pushed the feelings back.

But Sunday morning I couldn’t keep them back.

I let myself feel, remember, and regret.

I let myself get angry again and I let my hate for him seep in.

Which is when God told me,

“Forgive him.”

. . .

My immediate response was, “No. Nope. Not gonna happen. He’s a terrible person. Look what he did to me! How can I forgive him?”

God patiently and tenderly persisted, “Forgive him.”

I continued my inward battle with tears streaming down my cheeks, “NO! He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!”, I kept thinking.

And then I remembered a lesson that I’ve heard many times before, “Forgiveness doesn’t mean what he did was right. Forgiveness is releasing yourself from the pain.”

Holding onto my anger and hate toward this guy doesn’t do anything to him. He has no idea. The only person that is being affected is me.”

So, reluctantly but surely, I said the words in my head, “I forgive you.”

I said it many times.

But instead of feeling a release and surge of joy I felt a bit of smugness. There’s a quote by Oscar Wilde that says, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” I felt “holier than thou”.

I felt myself forgiving him but also saying to him, “You’re not worth it. I’m going to forgive you because you’re not worth any more of my time and energy.”, which, I’m sure, isn’t exactly what God had in mind.

And just as if God was again, waiting for this perfect moment, I heard Him say,

“Love him.”

WOAH. Just hold on for one second. LOVE HIM? There’s no way. I could barely forgive the guy. How could I ever love him?

God, ever-wisely, responded with, “That’s the only way to really forgive him. Love him.”

I sat with that for a while.

Love him?

I honestly didn’t know if I was capable of loving this guy. Love him?

But I knew I had to do. Not just because God was telling me to but because I deserved it and so did he. And so, in my head, I said, “I love you. I forgive you. I love you.”

I continued taking breath after breath and really trying to let it go. Just let myself love, let go of the bitterness and remorse. Let go and love.

I was reminded that God loves him. Even though he did a terrible thing to me, God still loves him. He’s God’s son, just as I am God’s daughter.

With tears rolling down my cheeks, I continued to say it, “I love you. I forgive you.”

I gradually felt the pain fade away, the years of anger melting. I felt my sorrow turn to gladness and my heartache to joy.

The incredible Thomas S. Monson said, “Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals.”

That’s what was happening, I began to feel myself heal.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
“Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.”

I may not ever get those books sold. …I want to. Oh, how I want to. But this lesson has been a gift to me.

A true gift in teaching me the miracle of forgiveness.