- Posted on: 18 April 2012
- By: Emmi Scott
I was born into a legacy of bitterness.
One side of my family consists of a long line of women whose lives haven’t turned out quite as they had imagined. They might not say it outright, but they are angry, and they have been angry for a long time. They have been left by more men than they can count; fathers, husbands, and lovers have walked out of their lives without looking back, but not before doing some deep damage. They can’t seem to forget, and those memories have decayed into a sense of bitterness, which makes itself known through criticism, gossip, and broken relationships.
It’s exactly the kind of legacy no one wants to inherit.
I wondered for a long time if this legacy was mine to inherit too, just like the women before me had inherited it from their mothers and grandmothers. Never mind that I have an amazing father who chose to stay and to fight for me through the most difficult years of my life. Never mind that I am not prone to heartbreak. When a trait runs that strongly in your genes, it’s hard not to wonder if you will have it too, like blue eyes or a long nose. It begins to seem inevitable.
But then, that thing happened, the thing that threatened to give me my own list of “if only’s,” the event that threatened to toss me into a pit of bitterness without a means to climb back out. And in the brokenness, anger, and heartache that followed, I somehow decided that I didn’t want any part in this legacy of bitterness.
I chose to disinherit myself.
I chose to forgive.
Putting this decision into action hasn’t been the simplest thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes when your heart is smashed into a million pieces, you have to dig pretty deep to collect all of them again, and along the way, anger and bitterness and resentment rear their ugly heads and try to convince you that it will be easier to just give in to them.
And sometimes, that’s a pretty tempting idea.
Those are the days when you have to take a deep breath and choose, again, the path to forgiveness. And if that’s not enough, those are the days when you find someone who will help you want forgiveness, and you sit with them and cry about how unfair it all is until you settle down and realize that what you’re doing feels terrible and the forgiveness thing is just a better idea anyway.
And after enough days, and maybe months, of deciding again and again to forgive, it suddenly becomes easy. And you’re finally not angry any longer.
Here’s the thing: harboring bitterness against someone else ultimately doesn’t affect them very much. But it could destroy you. That bitterness will seep into your thoughts, words, and actions, and it will affect your relationships with the people you love. So, forgive—if not for them, then for you.
In the end, no matter how your plans turn out, no matter how others treat you, you get to choose what your life looks like. I’m choosing fullness, joy, and forgiveness.
It’s a legacy that I hope will live on for many, many years.