I’m noticing a trend in my daughter. An unpleasant one. One that may be hard to squash out of her somehow.
Holding a grudge.
There are certain people that get on her everlovin’ last nerve. Probably for good reason because she tends to get along with most people pretty well. But every once in a while, somebody comes along that she develops an intense disliking for and then it grows into loathing until she downright wishes they’d never been born.
I don’t know how to teach this away. Because, honestly, I know how she feels.
There are some people that have wronged me or the ones I love in such a way that it’s a daily process to forgive them, not dwell on them or their actions, and to focus on extending as much grace as I possibly can. Because grace is all about showing mercy to those who don’t deserve it.
I think these are some of the hardest parenting moments – the ones where you almost have to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But that doesn’t work. Our children emulate our actions, not our commands.
I attribute the fact that I can turn the other cheek to my own parents, whom I have seen extend grace in the face of a lot of undeserved persecution. They are not grudge-holders. In fact, while I have a lot of work to do in this department, I know that it is because of their example that I have the ability to forgive and not allow bitterness to consume me.
This may come as a shock to you, but there ARE people that don’t like me. (I know, I know – what is up with that?!) They make no bones about it – I’ve been unfriended on Facebook. I’ve been ignored while in the same room. I’ve been verbally spat at like I ran over their puppy when, in fact, I’ve never done anything at all to some of these people. And if I HAVE done a wrong, I always, always, try to make amends.
But some people just won’t have it. You know why? I think I know why. From my own personal experience with holding grudges, bitterness feels good. It satisfies like chocolate. I have a theory on why it feels so good too – because it makes us not only feel good, but feel good about ourselves. We are never so happy as when we feel self-righteous. Superior. Better than. “At least I’m not like so-n-so.” And as we run over the list of their offenses, we feel justified to hate them and begin to see ourselves as a martyr of sorts. Bitterness is a fast growing weed, like kudzu in the south. Before you know it, it has taken over your heart and mind until you can’t see anything else. I know this because (a) I’ve personally experienced it and (b) I’ve been on the receiving end of it.
So what do you say to your child when their struggling to forgive others, show them grace, turn the other cheek when that person probably doesn’t deserve it and will probably never apologize for the wrongs they’ve done?
Ouch. That’s a hard one. Especially about the ones who’ll never say they’re sorry. I can forgive anyone who comes to me with a truly, heartfelt apology. I mean, how can you not? It’s so HARD to make an apology, I could never reject one.
But, apology or not, if we are Christians, we are called to love. Unconditionally. As we are loved. SOOOOO much easier said than done.
Obviously spending time in bitterness obstructs our relationship with God, but as I mentioned, it’s all-consuming as well. I really believe that’s one of the reasons Jesus so readily forgave from the cross: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” He didn’t waste His time focusing on how He’d been wronged. Truth be known, most of our bitterness is probably unfounded anyway. I always come back to a saying that I heard a long time ago, “Hurting people hurt people.” And knowing what I know about motivations and behaviors now, I really do believe that. In some ways, that makes it a little easier to look at the ones that wrong me. I don’t know quite how to express that to my daughter, but, at the end of the day, dealing with grudges is quite simple:
Ain’t nobody got time for that.