Project Life Skills:
This week we are discussing forgiveness in Character First. Miss M. starts the week by asking the class, “Are you walking around with unforgiveness in your heart?” I started running a list through my mind, names and faces, asking myself if I was harboring any grudges.
I thought back to high school when I was holding a grudge against my grandad’s wife. She had a really difficult personality and in my opinion was especially hard on me. I remember a time shortly after my high school graduation that she made the comment about how pretty I looked at graduation and asked why I dressed so sloppy the rest of the time. Maybe I didn’t fit her image of what she thought I should look like or be. I held such a silly grudge that I refused to eat Christmas dinner at her house one year. I told my parents, “You can make me go, but you can’t make me eat her food.” So at 18 years old, I packed a lunch and took it in my neon orange lunchbox. Some of my family laughed at my silliness, encouraging me to treat her with disrespect. I held this grudge, demeaning her behind her back to other family members and being less than respectful to her face.
In 2007, more than 15 years after they were married, my granddad was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was 87 years old and the doctors said that they did not want to treat him, so they would do what they could to make him comfortable. In early May, I sat by his bed, staring at a man who I had so admired all of my life. He did not have much in the way of formal education, but he had a successful family business that he was leaving to my uncle and cousin. He became a Christian later in life, but served for years as an Elder in the church and was certainly a well-respected advisor for many.
He made the choice to marry a lady, who kept him company, and even if I did not care for her, he did. On his deathbed, I let go of my grudge. Was it too late? Had I been distant far too long? Did I have to apologize to her for all the mean things I had said about her and all ugly faces I had made about the nuts she put in her food? The answer was No—it wasn’t too late and I didn’t have to formally apologize. I was just nice to her. I started being nice behind her back and to her face. I visited her twice after my granddad passed away by myself. She was my connection to him as I was a connection for her. It was a nice visit and I appreciated the time she took to talk with me. She told me things about my granddad that I did not even know; it was amazing.
My grudge did nothing to her. I am sure my granddad knew that we were not overly found of spending time with her. My grudge hurt him. My grudge hurt me. The anger and bitterness I walked around with ate up my energy, stole my joy and possibly kept me from having a better relationship with my granddad. My “unforgiveness” hurt me.